In an angry, divided nation and world, Scouting teaches “timeless values” and instills young people with integrity and superior leadership skills to forge bonds of peace.
That was the message that Robert Mazzuca, chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America, brought Thursday to Kansas City.
“In my opinion, this nation has never in our lives, in history, needed what Scouting has to offer more than today,” Mazzuca told about 800 people who gathered for the 51st annual Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast in the Bartle Hall Grand Ballroom.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James welcomed the crowd, including more than 30 other mayors in attendance, and urged participants to focus more on what unites the community and region than what divides it.
“This event reminds us that civility matters, that respect matters, that prayer matters, that unity matters,” James said.
Mazzuca said Scouting shares some similarities with the Prayer Breakfast, whose enduring theme over the years has been to promote ethics, morality and spirituality in business, labor, the professions and government.
“Our world needs more gatherings like this,” he said, adding that his organization teaches boys and young men to honor God and to respect and honor all faith traditions.
This year’s prayer breakfast event benefitted the Boy Scouts Heart of America Council, and Mazzuca commended the council, which has over 15,000 Scouts who contributed more than 139,000 hours of community service last year.
Mazzuca said this council has the highest market share in the country, with 27 percent of Cub Scout-aged kids participating and 25 percent of Scout-aged youth participating.
Mazzuca highlighted several key Scouting initiatives:
• Messengers of Peace, which he helped promote last year in Saudi Arabia. He said he committed Boy Scouts of America wholeheartedly to this effort, in which scouts all over the world will undertake projects to promote peace and understanding in their communities. He said that through the Internet, scouts in America can then share and develop their ideas with those in other parts of the world.
• Promoting physical fitness. Mazzuca said he was struck by a recent Surgeon General’s warning that, “We’re on the verge of being the first generation in our history that’s likely to be less healthy and live fewer years than their parents.”
He said Scouting has always played and must continue to play a major role in getting kids off the couch and “back to the great outdoors.”
• Celebrating diversity. He said Scouting launched a national Hispanic initiative four years ago and has dramatically grown its participation in Hispanic communities. More recently, the organization has also launched Scouting troops in Muslim mosques, especially in Michigan.