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By Chris T ucke r IN DEPTH

Meet New BSA President Robert Gates

Upon a confirming vote by the National Council in May, Robert M. Gates will become the BSA’s national president. In a life crowded with accom- plishments, Gates rose to the rank of Eagle Scout; earned a doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University; spent 27 years in the CIA, which he headed from 1991 to 1993; served as presi- dent of Texas A&M University; and from 2006 to 2011 served as secretary of defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

SCOUTING: What are some of your great memories of Scouting as a boy? ROBERT GATES: Scouting has been a big part of my family’s life. I have a photograph of my father in a Scout uniform in

1918, when he was 12 years old. In Wichita, Kan., in those days — before videogames and the Internet and all the rest — life pretty much revolved around family and school and church and Scouts. I went to Philmont twice, once as a hiker and once as part of what was then called the National Junior Leader Training Program. I’ve always joked that it was the best and only leadership course I ever took.

SCOUTING: Do you recall how you felt when you earned your Eagle? GATES: Probably a sense of relief. I was only 15 years old, and I was sort of stuck with three or four merit badges to go. The national meeting of the OA was being held that summer of 1958 at the

University of Kansas, and the only way you could get to be a VIP escort was by being an Eagle Scout. That provided the additional motivation for me to finish those badges. As with a lot of kids, the primary motivator was my mother keeping on me to get it done.

SCOUTING: How did your time in Scouting prepare you for your career? GATES: Scouting taught me an enormous amount about leadership, particularly how to persuade people. One of the great things about Scouting is that it’s a volunteer organiza- tion, so no matter whether you’re an adult or a kid, a Scoutmaster or a patrol leader, you have to persuade people to do things rather than just telling them what to do. I think that approach to leadership, trying to get people on one side working together, was a very important learning experience for me.

SCOUTING: You told a great story at the jamboree about a father-son campout with your son. GATES: Yes, it was when I was director of the CIA. We had black vans with satellite dishes and a lot of armed CIA agents around the campsite. The security guys got really nervous because the Sunday morning activity was teaching all these kids to shoot skeet, so you had the CIA director out there with a bunch of 12- and 13-year-olds firing shotguns.

SCOUTING: What’s your view of Scouting’s youth member- ship policy change? GATES: I think it’s an important step forward, and I strongly support it. No question that it was the right thing. Now we need to turn our attention to further improving the quality of the program, getting more kids into Scouting and re-establishing our unity as a movement.

SCOUTING: As president, what will you say to parents consid- ering Scouting for their kids? GATES: Scouting offers uniquely the experience that makes boys into leaders, gives them a sense of responsibility, makes them self-reliant and clearly builds character. I don’t know of any other institution that gives boys that foundation for future leadership. Scouting certainly did that for me.



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