Duty to country

Flag and ballot box“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and  my country…

These words resonate at the beginning of every meeting of our packs and dens, troops and crews. We sometimes rattle them off without thinking about what they mean.

Our country is at a crossroads and is on the eve of what could be the most important election of our lifetimes. American government is not a spectator sport. The founders designed it so that periodically, regularly, we choose those who will serve the people, make our laws, and chart the course of our society. Participation in our elections has traditionally been lackluster. If even half of our citizens cast ballots, that’s been a typically good turnout in recent years. That’s what happened in 2016, where only about half of the half of the electorate that voted chose the president and Congress. This is hardly representative government. It’s not okay to sit out an election because you don’t like the candidates, because you’re mad that your candidate didn’t win the nomination, because you lack motivation to learn about the candidates or to go to the polls, or because you think your vote won’t make a difference. (Case in point: the winner of the 2016 presidential election in three battleground states won by around two votes per precinct. Nationally, John F. Kennedy’s margin of victory in 1960 was less than one vote per precinct. One person’s vote can make a difference.)

This year, the get-out-the-vote emphasis is stronger than I’ve seen it in my lifetime. But I don’t need to tell you that. You’ve seen it with your own eyes and ears as well. The more people that vote and take an active civic role, the more our government looks like the people it serves. And as a Scouter, you understand the meaning of civic engagement, as we work to instill that sense in our youth. The Citizenship merit badges, required for the rank of Eagle Scout, are one of the more visible methods that we use, but every time we raise the flag, say the Pledge of Allegiance, help collect food for the needy, pick up litter in our parks – we are instilling in our youth our responsibility to our country and our neighbors.

When I was a den leader, our canned food drive would take place right around election time, and our Scouts would place bags on doors in our neighborhood. I also had them place reminder cards to get out and vote, since the election was usually the Tuesday following our bag distribution. It’s hard to tell whether it had an impact on voter turnout, but I’m certain it had an impact on the Scouts who delivered the message.

The fact that so many of our young people are involved in Scouting today gives me optimism in the future. Having been a Scouter for over twenty years, I’ve seen what fine citizens that some of the young people in our packs and troops have grown into. Today’s Scouts are indeed our future voters, leaders and citizens, and we are doing our best to guide them toward accepting that responsibility.

To those reading this, I don’t need to repeat the message echoing in our society about participating in our electoral process. But after you make your plan to vote (if you haven’t voted already), remind your friends to do the same. And share your experience with your Scouts.

Image: Tumisu via Pixabay

This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
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