Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was officially elected national president of the Boy Scouts of America this week. Gates is the 35th person to hold the title.
In his new position, Gates will be the head of the organization’s National Executive Board for two years. Gates was once a member of the National Executive Board, as well as a president of the National Eagle Scout Association. He is also an Eagle Scout and has received awards from the Boy Scouts of America for his service to the organization.
“The Boy Scouts of America had a profound influence on my childhood and helped form the foundation of my career in public service,” said Gates. “I’ve had tremendous opportunities in my life, but I can say without hesitation that my memories of Scouting are every bit as vivid and meaningful as what came later. I believe every boy deserves an opportunity to experience what Scouting offers. Scouting teaches youth how to set and achieve goals, develops a deep commitment to serve others, and creates leaders for tomorrow who are not only prepared to serve their communities, but also prepared for life and leadership. Just as it did for me.”
Gates served as defense secretary under both President George W. Bush and President Obama. During his time at the Pentagon, Gates presided over some of the most difficult years of the war in Iraq. He also led the U.S. military through a controversial transition away from its anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The Boy Scouts of America has also recently seen controversy over gay rights. Just months ago the organization allowed openly gay boys to become boy scouts. Before that, openly gay scouts had been banned, a policy that had been criticized by gay rights organizations and a few celebrities. Though the new policy does not allow for openly gay scout masters, the organization is now being criticized by religious groups for its more inclusive stance.
Image via the Boy Scouts of America