Should Your Boy Join the BSA?

A friend recently questioned whether to allow his son to join the Boy Scouts due to the recent controversy over the BSA policy on gays/lesbians. Below are my thoughts on the topic:

I am a Eagle Scout as are my three brothers. My son will likely complete his Eagle within a year. Let me first go on record that I deplore the BSA's policy on gays and lesbians.

Scouting is about teaching a boy skills that he will use throughout his life. Some are practical skills embodied in any of the 120 available merit badges including camping, hiking, cooking, first aid, communications, swimming, personal finance, nuclear engineering, woodworking, orienteering, oceanography, music, robotics, safety, wilderness survival and American Business, to name just a few. Did you know that ~20% of boys that participate in scouting find a life long hobby because of these merit badges. It's also about the fun, friendships and social skills development as the scouts participate in campouts, hikes, local camporees, national jamborees and high adventure camps – none of which a boy could experience without the BSA. It's also about the less tangible skills of leadership, honor, respect and instilling a life long passion to serve others before yourself. Boy Scouting is all about doing something good for the boys and the community. Over 11 million hours of volunteer community service were donated by the Boy Scout movement in 2011 alone, at an estimated value to local communities of $206 million.

So do boys really benefit from scouting? While these statistics are probably dated, they are instructive. Boy Scout alumni include:

  • 63% of Air Force Academy graduates
  • 68% of West Point graduates
  • 70% of Annapolis graduates
  • 72% of Rhodes Scholars
  • 85% of FBI agents
  • 65% of college graduates
  • 65% of US Congress
  • 85% of airline pilots
  • 85% of student council presidents
  • 89% of senior class presidents
  • 71% of football captains
  • 65% of basketball captains
  • 88% of school newspaper editors
  • 77% of editors of school annuals
  • 75% of business managers of school publications
  • 80% of junior class presidents

In addition, 206 members of the 112th Congress participated in Scouting as a youth and/or adult leader. 29 are Eagle Scouts. 15 current U.S. governors participated in Scouting as a youth and/or adult volunteer. Four are Eagle Scouts.

That said, the current gay/lesbian policy is fundamentally a decision made by a small group of national committee cronies who are wrestling with what for the BSA is fundamentally a financial not social policy issue. If they change the policy, the BSA will quickly split between those troops sponsored by very conservative organizations (mainly the Mormon church but also fundamentalist churches as well) and those more socially centrist or liberal organizations. The Mormons are financially critical to the BSA and without their support the rest of the BSA would wither and die. Even the Catholic Church would support a policy where gays and lesbians can act in adult leadership roles and certainly wouldn't discriminate against the boys themselves.

I rationalize my continued support by looking to change the organization from within. I honestly don't believe this issue comes up at the troop level. I've never seen and don't know anyone who has seen it rear it's ugly head at the local level. Boy Scouts at the troop level are by and large inclusive and welcoming to anyone that's interested. Personally I belong to a number of organizations where I don't fully agree with every tenant put forth: the Democratic Party, the Roman Catholic Church, the United States of America (I don't agree with every policy our government puts forth). Even at work we find ourselves in the “disagree and commit” scenario often enough.

I encourage you and your son to join. As we do in our family, teach your son to be an open minded, loving and inclusive individual and someone who will stand up for his beliefs (note: that's actually a part of the 12 points of the scout law). The Boy Scouts of America is an exceptionally good and important organization that has a lot to offer our boys. The BSA is misguided on a few policies and we need to work to fix those. But I encourage you to not deprive your son of all of the good the BSA has to offer because of what I hope is a temporary situation.

Donald D. Parker
Eagle Scout, Class of 1983
Vigil Honor, Order of the Arrow


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A man, his boy and 3 days in Washington D.C.

My 13 year old son and I ventured to my home town of Rockville, Maryland this week just outside of Washington D.C.. We enjoyed time visiting with my parents and ran ourselves ragged at the museums in our nation’s capital. Growing up in Washington D.C., I was spoiled by access to some of the world’s most impressive museums and monuments so I was excited to share this with my son.  Our week included:

  • Air and Space Museum on the mall & at Dulles – Largest McDonalds I’ve ever experienced at the A&S on the mall. The Space Shuttle Discovery and an SR-71 Blackbird at Dulles are absolutely amazing if not a little humbling.Image
  • Library of Congress – our clear and away new favorite spot in DC. Fantastic interior and a great tour guide. We actually returned later in the week to get more time in the Jefferson library (nearly complete reconstructed collection of Jefferson’s entire library of 6000 volumes).Image
  • Newseum – very modern and interactive museum. Worth it for the Pulitzer Prize photo gallery alone.Image
  • International Spy Museum – it sounds a lot cooler than it really is. Way overpriced. No picture (they weren’t allowed – go figure).
  • National Archives – haven’t done this since I was a young child. Seeing the actual founding documents is inspirational.Image
  • National Museum of Natural History – one of Owen’s favorites each time we’re in DC. This time they had a display of photos from a Smithsonian photo contest. Some of the most amazing photos I’ve ever seen. Real innovation in printing them too. You can see them too here [click here].
  • WW II Memorial – I was a skeptic of putting another memorial in the Lincoln/Washington/Capital line-up but after seeing the finished product, I’m sold.Image
  • Washington Monument – no tours due to earthquake damage but still a wonderful sight.Image
  • Lincoln Memorial – what can I say. Old Abe is still there and still my favorite American ever. Owen insisted I include a picture of the typo they made in the wall of the memorial (“Euture” instead of “Future”).Image
  • the Mall – I know it’s technically not a monument but it’s still a must-see spot in D.C.. Here are a few photos of the White House, the Jefferson Memorial, some guys repairing the Simeon top of the National Gallery of Art, and a view of the Old Post Office from the Newseum.ImageImage

Alas we only had 3 days to tour but it was a great experience and treasured time 1:1 with my son.

Donald D. Parker.

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Photo Blog – Portland’s Japanese Gardens

Started the day with a hike through Portland's Japanese Gardens. I've been there a hundred times and still find something new each time I visit.


Donald D. Parker


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Why does my grocery store sell guns?

I swung by the local Fred Meyer store yesterday(7/19/2012) for a few paint brushes. I use this store frequently as it's my grocery store, my pharmacy, my coffee source (nearest Starbucks) and they're good for everyday household items too. The store was remodeled about a year ago and I hadn't yet been back to the far corner where the paint, hardware and sporting goods department landed. I turned the corner thinking the desk in front of me was where the paint supplies would start, and instead was confronted by cabinets of handguns and racks of rifles. I was taken aback by the vast array of guns (well over 75) on display and available for sale. At the time, there were two Fred Meyer service people discussing the fine particulars of handguns with two different customers. I was back in the store today and, unbelievably, there was another customer discussing a gun purchase.

Which brings me to my question: why does my grocery store sell guns? Are gun sales such a high volume business that a cross-category grocery/department store chain can't miss out on the opportunity? The question is so much more revelent today as we all grapple with the Aurora shooting, and my friend mourns the loss of her cousin from that horrible act of senseless violence. In light of last night's shooting, the Eaton Center in June, Columbine, Springfield High (Oregon) and so many other shootings that occur all over American cities, I have to wonder if we shouldn't reexamine our gun control laws. Buying a gun shouldn't be as easy as going to the grocery store. I don't know if better screening is required, longer waiting periods implemented or if we need a complete ban on certain types of guns. What I am certain of is that something must change. I know that there will always be bad people in the world, and no legislation will ever completely stop them from doing horrible things. But if giving up our right to own certain guns could prevent a future senseless shooting, then by all means, I am willing to give up that right.

I ask that anyone reading this consider learning the names of the victims of the Aurora shooting. Remember at least one of them instead of the name of the deranged individual that put an end to the lives of so many innocents.

Donald D. Parker.


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Birds from my backyard

I've enjoyed some much needed downtime this week. We've had fantastic weather so I spent a few hours catching up on my reading on my porch. Sitting still and quiet on the porch, I was amazed at how much wildlife was active around me. My home backs to a golf course and we're only a half mile from the edge of the urban growth boundary so birds and animals are common here (even had a coyote pass through the backyard once). Yesterday, I brought my camera out and caught a few good shots of the birds that inhabit my backyard and beyond.

Red-Shafted Northern Flicker

Red-Shafted Northern Flicker


American Robin



Western Scrub Jay



Red-Tailed Hawk


… and I haven't been able to figure out what this little guy is yet but he sure loves to tease our chickens?


Regards, Donald


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Henry the Hawk

Week #3 of my sabbatical is coming to a close. Both kids are at scout camp this week so things are a bit quiet around the Parker household. The weather here has been absolutely amazing at 75 degrees, with blue skies and just a hint of a breeze. While quietly enjoying a good book on my backyard deck this afternoon I was struck by the amount of wildlife present all around me.

A silly squirrel has a habit of laying down on our back fence with two limbs flopping on either side. There's a grey hummingbird that enjoys some of our potted flowers and a family of robins nesting somewhere in our Douglas firs. Of course, our somewhat domesticated chickens can always be heard talking to themselves. We regularly hear the screach of a red tailed hawk that swoops across our yard and the golf course behind us. I was fortunate to grab my camera tonight and ran onto the golf course to photograph “Henry the Hawk”. It was nearly sunset so the lighting was just perfect.

I think I might have found a new hobby in wildlife photography. I have a lot to learn but really enjoy grabbing these kinds of shots.

Regards, Donald.


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San Jose and La Paz Waterfall Gardens/Wildlife Refuge

Yesterday began with an early plane flight from Tortoguero to San Jose. It was a small plane and at least one passenger (My wife) wasn’t thrilled with the size of the plane. Thankfully the rubber bands they use to keep the propellers going held up and we arrived safely in San Jose 30 minutes later.
The morning was spent touring Costa Rica’s capital. One of the most beautiful buildings on this tour was the national theater:
However, as one might expect, not everyone was pleased with the bus tour which was seen simply as a delay in the day’s main event – a visit to Sibu organic, sustainable, boutique chocolate manufacturers.
Sibu really put themselves on the map in a very short 4 years showing that sustainable business practices are viable in this small central American nation. They have a fantastic story for their business tying to the utilization of native (pre-spanish) ingredients and employing organic/sustainable processes and ingredients. They’ve become consultants to other businesses in the area and one of the two owners teaches online culinary classes. Below is a picture of our chocolate tastings which were simply amazing (and cruel for the kids as they had to sit for 30 minutes learning about the history of chocolate with a plate of fine chocolate in front of them).
Monday was spent at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Wildlife Refuge. We didn’t realize that the taxi ride would take 1:45hr almost entirely on horrible mountain roads (hey, most of the roads were paved). Surprisingly this was quite well built, modern and organized park where they rescue exotic birds, jungle cats, reptiles, snakes and small mammals.
This keel-billed toucan had a question on his mind:
There was a splendid butterfly garden that elicited a roar of laughter when the butterflies landed on my hat ( alas I was too slow with the camera to catch it).
These jungle cats were soooo adorable. The best part can’t be captured on film as he had about an 80dB purr. If you look closely enough in the eyes of the second photo, you’ll actually see a reflection of us standing in front of him – I wish I could say I planned the photo that way.
I have no explanation for this photo. I just felt the need to capture the moment; hey, it’s art.
In the hummingbird garden, Owen and I applied some of new DSLR camera skills. We found that you need a shutter speed of at least 1/1600th of a second to freeze hummingbird wings. Owen takes the credit for the following photos:
.. And finally, I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas (I’m sure you’ll see this photo again in December). 🙂

Tomorrow will be a quieter day nearer to the hotel as we prepare to return to Oregon on Tuesday.

Regards, Donald.

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