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Commentary: Boy Scout Jamboree - Hot, But So Cool

By Scott Spreier, KERA 90.1 commentator

Commentary: Boy Scout Jamboree - Hot, But So Cool

Dallas, TX –

For the past two weeks, concerned friends have been asking after our 14-year-old son, who was attending the Boy Scout Jamboree outside Washington, D.C. After news reports of the tragic deaths of several leaders, the hot weather that sidelined 300 Scouts, and severe storms that finally broke the heat wave, we were a bit worried too, especially since we hadn't heard a word from him, despite promises that he would call.

Watching television last week, we searched unsuccessfully for his familiar face as the cameras panned the sea of 33,000 youngsters listening to George Bush, and a commentator gravely spoke of "the President offering comfort to the Boy Scouts."

"I hope he hasn't been traumatized by the events of the week," I told my wife. "After all, he is our sensitive child."

"Yeah, right," she said. "He's too busy having a good time to call us."

A good time, indeed. When he finally phoned home, two days before the event's close earlier this week, he didn't mention the fatal accident or the President's appearance. Yes, the weather had been a bit hot, he admitted. But everything else about his two weeks, which included tours of New York City and Washington, D.C., were - in a word - "cool."

Rappelling down a two-story wall? Cool.

The BMX Motorcross? Cool.

Mountain boarding? Cool.

The evening shows? Cool.

The Capitol? Cool.

The Smithsonian? Cool.

The Vietnam Memorial? Cool.

The Army strength course? Cool.

The free Army video game, rated 'T' for blood and violence? Cool.

The President? Cool, but "boy, is he an old guy."

The Federal Bureau Of Investigation? Cool, especially the FBI agent who told them about fleeing Mexico after ratting out a major drug gang.

New York City? Way cool.

So what about the unexpected, the unusual, the newsworthy? Any excitement of the type we saw and read about? Nah, not really. Unless you count the troop members who decided to "convert" from Christianity to the Buddhist faith for the week in order to more easily get their Duty to God patch. I'll let the ACLU sort that one out. And then there was the troop bully, who was laid out by his victim - the troop's nice kid - with one well-placed punch to the eye. "We were all happy," my son told us. "Especially the adult leaders."

The adult leaders weren't so happy, my son added, when he and other Scout invented a bug-immolating flame-thrower out of a can of PAM and a cigarette lighter.

Oh yes, there was also tour of the Stock Exchange, which came right after the visit to Chinatown, where troop members bought the lighters, along with switchblades, Samurai swords, and bootlegged videos from street vendors. They watched a pirated version of "War of the Worlds" on the bus to Washington. "Great movie," my son said. Apparently the guards at the Stock Exchange got a bit excited when 36 Scouts showed up like some weird band of Ninjas, their backpacks filled with oriental weaponry. That, according to my son, was way, way cool.

So what can we learn from the events of the past two weeks? Several valuable lessons, I think. One: scouting may no longer be politically correct, but it's a still a great experience. My son came home acting a bit older, walking a bit taller. Two: youth are resilient, be it in the face of minor hardships or real tragedy. There is no denying the horror of the deaths of four good leaders. At the same time, the jamboree of life goes on. Three: always put what the media feeds you in perspective. News is, after all, about the extreme, the unexpected, the unusual. Four: parents will be parents. We will always worry. That is our job. And five: boys, thankfully, will always be boys.

That's cool. So cool.


Scott Spreier is a writer from Dallas. If you have opinions or questions about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.