When you think of the idea of a Boy Scout, do you think their political leaning would tend to be more liberal or conservative? Maybe your answer says a lot about your political leaning. This list of celebrity Boy Scouts crosses over every walk of life, from past presidents to athletes to astronauts. Many of the names should surprise you because if there is one thing for certain it is that the Boy Scouts have changed over the years. It will be interesting to see whose names appear on the list five years from now.
Here are a few statistics compiled by a Boy Scout troop that you can use and apply to everyone on this list. It will help you get a better perspective of scouting regardless of how you personally feel about the individual personalities. According to the survey, for every 100 Boy Scouts who apply for entry into the program shows that:
- It is not for everyone – 30 will not make it past their first year
- It is not primarily a religious organization – 12 will be from families that belong to no church, though 3 will become pastors
- It builds a patriotic foundation – 45 of those who stay with the program will serve in the Military.
- It demonstrates real world skills – 1 person will use scout skills to save somebody else’s life
- It is practical – 2 of the 100 report that they used their scouting skills to save their own life
The existing evidence is that being a Boy Scout has a lot of positives to it. As you read down the list of these celebrities, some who really never wanted to be a celebrity, consider that all of them made those decisions based on a political ideology they either acquired during their early years or was shifted as they grew older. We would like to avoid politics in our everyday decisions, but these days it is often impossible.
Here is the list of 20.
1. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan falls under a number of celebrity status categories: professional basketball player (Chicago Bulls), NBA team owner (Charlotte Hornets) , philanthropist, ad man (McDonald’s), and actor (remember Space Jam?). OK, maybe he wasn’t exactly acting in Space Jam but he definitely was a Boy Scout. Some of his public actions — the divorce from his wife Juanita and his politically liberal connections — may have people thinking he is less than conservative. But generally he remains neutral on many public controversies and keeps a low profile.
2. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The question to be asked here is whether or not a Boy Scout and a preacher are a natural combination. Or maybe whether being a Boy Scout will turn you into a liberal. There is little doubt that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was politically liberal. As one of the most famous civil rights activists in American history, he shifted the narrative away from African Americans accepting the status quo and towards equality for all men and women. There also isn’t much doubt that he earned a merit badge for bravery — whether you liked his politics or not. Standing up for what you believe in is something that comes and goes with the political and media news cycles these days, but Dr. King did it regardless of the cultural climate.
3. Hank Aaron
When you think of Major League Baseball’s all-time home run leader most people remember Hank Aaron. Technically, Barry Bonds has 7 more home runs in his playing career, but there is definitely a question of his use of illegal steroids that taint that number. In contrast, Aaron endured threats against his life as he approached hitting number 714 that would put him past Babe Ruth. This is another act that earned a merit badge for bravery. He may not be the most conservative of conservatives, but he stands for the red, white, and blue far more often than not.
4. Bill Clinton
First, let’s get this out of the way. To quote Carol Markus, Captain Kirk’s lost love in Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, “he was no Boy Scout.” Here, the “he” is former president Bill Clinton. Though not technically correct — he actually was a Boy Scout — his public actions denied his pedigree of being a member of the organization. Definitely a liberal politically, his life continues to be plagued by financial and political scandal. Apparently he used the best of scouting to rise to the presidency, but once he achieved what many people aspire to be, he forgot from whence he came. Unfortunately, this is a common human foible.
5. Barack Obama
Another clearly liberal president, Barack Obama has tried to distance himself from the legions of Hollywood executives and stars that have been accused of sexual improprieties in the #metoo movement. When elected in 2008, he was one of the most popular people to be elected to president in the history of the United States. But during his 8 years in office he failed to keep a simple Boy Scout principle, to live by “a promise and law.” There were many broken promises he made prior to being elected, though this is often the case as the idealism of being a candidate runs headlong into the reality of being president. Perhaps his years in law school turned him away from his scouting roots.
6. George Takei
Takei has been at the forefront of LGBTQ rights for many years and is an unabashed liberal. One thing that makes Takei unique on this list is that he was generally known as a minor role player in the Star Trek original series franchise. What brought him to fame was social media. Even more interesting is that he has been accepted by virtually every LGBTQ age group despite the fact he will turn 81 on April 20th. It can be argued he has been influential in changing the requirements for who can be accepted into the Boy Scout organization.
7. Jimmy Buffett
Anyone who publicly endorsed Donald Trump for president has to be a hard core conservative, right? Not so fast. But the fan base of Buffett appears to be staunchly conservative. Comedian Orny Adams referenced Buffett in his latest HBO comedy special, noting the large number of people wearing Hawaiian shirts clearly was a reason to fear he was actually at a Jimmy Buffett concert. Buffett’s influence has actually reached the Federal court level, where his song “Margaritaville” was referenced in the court’s arguments. Now that’s an example of the power of scouting.
8. Harrison Ford
Whether you are liberal or conservative, admit it. Harrison Ford is one of the reasons, if not the only reason, you watch the Indiana Jones franchise and Star Wars. Would Princess Leah be as interesting without him? But he is both politically liberal and a Boy Scout. He also embodies the essential characteristics of a scout in his movies — adventurous, brave, knowledgeable, and always managing to find a way out of a bad situation. One of his lesser known movies, Clear and Present Danger has him defending the honor of the country and being a true patriot. You can’t get much better than that.
9. John F. Kennedy
One of the biggest differences between President Kennedy and President Clinton was the speed at which information travelled. Another difference is that President Kennedy served in the U.S. Navy as an officer in charge of the famous PT-109 patrol boat. History would later chastise him for his sexual dalliances with Hollywood starlets. But it was the 1960’s, and the United States was in a very serious Cold War with Russia, and Kennedy gave Americans something that has not been seen in quite some time — a national vision for the future. Most of the political fracas that goes on is more about money and personal rights and freedoms. In the 1960’s, civil rights and other social issues gained importance, but he kept the national interests in mind always — a sign of a true scout.
10. Steven Spielberg
Spielberg has done well to become one of the most successful and watched Hollywood directors in movie history. His Schindler’s List documentary did something few documentaries can — it really shook people up. Add Munich to the list. Then there are the “animal adventures” of Jaws and Jurassic Park and you have a combination of realism and entertainment few directors can match. It is said that as a matter of general political history, Jews lean towards the liberal side. Like with Harrison Ford, scouting has helped form his view of life and gave him the push towards seeking excellence.
11. Gerald Ford
There are few presidents in recent memory that have had to endure the political razzing from both sides of the aisle than what Gerald Ford has had to deal with. But how many vice-presidents have had to take over the office of president because of a resignation? Any newly elected president can tell you there is an adjustment period. The media often calls it “the honeymoon period” and gives the new guy some room. Yet given the circumstances, President Ford did a solid job of running the country despite the fact he was the only person in history to serve as President of the United States without being elected as either president or vice-president. The famous “be prepared” motto is likely to have been a motivator to deal with his rollercoaster ride of a political life.
12. Andy Griffith
Here is someone you expect to have been a Boy Scout. The TV father without a wife, raising his son Opie with the help of Aunt Bea, Griffith anchored one of the post popular TV shows in the history of Hollywood. His Sheriff Taylor character was all about being a good citizen and morally upstanding person. It is hard to find a better role model for boys and men in the 1960’s or today. His personal life was not significantly different than the character he played, though he generally stood on the sidelines when it came to rea, world politics. As Sheriff Andy might have said, “Why mess up a good thing?” Well, going on to play a lawyer may not have been the best step in that direction. Still, he managed to mix the accent of a country boy, a humor that crossed geographical boundaries, and a simplicity that made many people want to go back to the good ol’days of Mayberry living.
13. Walter Cronkite
The definition of excellence in news journalism long before the idea of 24 hours news coverage was in anyone’s mind, Walter Cronkite is and will always be a legend in television journalism. He covered the news factually, without any injection of personal slant (save for the Kennedy assassination) which has completely disappeared from the media reporting of today. Ask which television journalist people trust the most and you will have a political division rife with the “he said-she said” rancor. Cronkite was voted the most trusted man in journalism of his time. Honesty and integrity are two essential scout traits, and he embodied both of them more than perhaps anyone else on this list.
14. Donald Rumsfeld
Suggesting that Donald Rumsfeld could be anything but a political conservative is like saying that presidents Clinton or Obama could be anything but liberal. He was the Secretary of Defense under tow separate administrations — Gerald Ford’s in the 1970’s and that of George W. Bush of the early 21st century. That makes him both the youngest and oldest person to serve in that position in American history. Unfortunately, Rumsfeld has been steeped in controversy during his time in the Bush administration, including issues of “enhanced interrogation” methods that were deemed to be physical torture of prisoners captured as a result of the war on terror. He may have skipped a scout meeting or two along the way.
15. James Stewart
More commonly known as Jimmy Stewart, he was another of Hollywood’s most famous “moral men,” standing up to the powers that be in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and exposing corruption while get some life lessons in the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. Many considered him to be a down-to-earth type of person, and related easily to the middle class working man of his generation. Back in the day, being a Boy Scout was as about down-to-earth as you could get as a boy. He lived that life from beginning to end.
16. Neil Armstrong
Whether Neil Armstrong was chosen to lead the mission to the moon because he was a Boy Scout (good public relations) or because he was the most qualified astronaut does not matter since in either case he was a living demonstration of scouting excellence. Of all the people on this list, he is the most likely to be apolitical because on the one hand he served in the military, on the other hand he was fulfilling a promise made by assassinated President Kennedy to go to the moon made almost 20 years prior. Most people don’t see the mission to the moon to be primarily political, except those who had not given up on the importance of the Cold War. The entire world watched the landing and planting of the American flag.
17. Bill Gates
Do you believe Bill Gates is a liberal or a conservative? He did a very conservative thing by “pulling himself up by his bootstraps” and started what once was the de facto business computer operating system for more than a decade. But he also seems to have some liberal leanings as the world has changed and his company has become more involved of the social cultural wars of late. There are times he seems fearless, as he once testified before Congress about the state of jobs in American and future employment, while at the same time he was being investigated by Congress for some questionable business monopolistic practices. We can think of it as a scouting trait that says we should always be willing to help when we can.
18. George W. Bush
You might not believe that he was a Boy Scout if you are one of those who questions whether he actually served in the military during the Vietnam War. But he may have been the last sitting president to carry the conservative principles into office and apply them consistently in his administration. He had to deal with the 9-11 attacks, the war on terror, and a number of national security issues and laws such as the Patriot Act, which has come under its own attack over the years. He was the first president to hold office with a Master’s degree in Business Administration, which may account for his handling of the national economy. And like a good scout, his demeanor was always excellent and he treated everyone with respect, regardless of political party.
19. George Strait
This list would not be complete if there wasn’t at least one country singer or star who was a Boy Scout. Fortunately, we did not have to look far to find George Strait. Known in many music circles as “The King of Country” he has been credited with taking the heart of country music back from the movement of changing country music into a more “pop” style. Call him a traditionalist if you will, he is in the top three of the best country music performers of all time. If you can believe it, he is only 64 years old. Talk about making a difference in society.
20. John Wayne
To close out the list, it seemed only right to add the Hollywood legend John Wayne to the list. Maybe it was also because I couldn’t resist the urge to tell people one more time that his real name was Marion Mitchell Morrison. If there was anyone in Hollywood Western movies who played the role of American conservative, it was John Wayne. Off the set, he was equally conservative: “I’d like to know why well-educated idiots keep apologizing for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living.” He used to be one of the most quoted celebrities concerning liberty and American independence. You may not have agreed with him, but you never doubted he spoke his mind honestly.
Looking over the people on this list should make you step back and think how things could have ended up differently for each of these men had they taken a different path in life. The truth is, we don’t know the answer to that any better than anyone else. For each of these celebrities it seems that they made the best decision they could based on the knowledge they had. We all do, but most of our decisions are not played out in the media day after day, or for that matter, even register a blip on the big screen of history.
There were many other men who could have been included on the list — Jim Morison of The Doors, Richard Gere, actor John Ritter, former San Francisco 49er hall of fame quarterback Steve Young, filmmaker Michael Moore — but this list took you through a journey to show you that being a member of the Boy Scouts is only a foundation that you are responsible for building on. It isn’t intended to be a promotional article. Quite frankly, there seems to be more bad than good that came out from this list of former Boy Scouts. But it’s more of what you do with what you have than simply being a Boy Scout.
To close out this article, I’ll leave you with something John Wayne said in a Playboy magazine interview (is there anything more true blue, red blooded American to a man than Playboy?)
“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”