“Be Prepared”, as a phrase, is synonymous with reliability, courteousness and wholesomeness. So too is the three-finger “salute”, the raising of the three middle fingers of the right hand, that has come to represent the Scouts. The Scout uniform, both for girls or women and boys or men was another well-known characteristic which was designed to remove indications of social class. The neckerchief and campaign hat (or headwear) made every member equal.
Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low is the founder of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA), which started in 1912 in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia. She met Lord Baden-Powell while she was in the United Kingdom and then envisioned a similar movement for girls in the United States. Eighteen girls attended the first meeting, and thus began an organization by women for girls and women for the empowerment of women in society.
While the Girl Scout Promise & Law has changed over the years, it aims to teach girls and women to embody self-respect, other-centeredness, and social responsibility. “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.” As of 2011, GSUSA membership held approximately 2.2 million youth and almost 900 thousand adults with Anna Maria Chavez as its present Chief Executive Officer.
Lord Baden-Powell, as mentioned above, was an officer in the British Army and founder of the Scout Movement in Europe. The Scout Movement was started to support youth’s physical, mental and spiritual development. Focusing on outdoor activities and survival skills, the Scout Movement set out to direct youth to become constructive members of British society. In 1910, a female equivalent was created which was known as the Girl Guides. Out of the Scout Movement, the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) came to be, and in 2007 Scouts worldwide celebrated its first centennial!
Meanwhile, in a country not so far away, Scouts Canada with French affiliate Association des Scouts du Canada, was founded in 1914 and a member of WOSM. With statistics from 2011, Scouts Canada is the largest youth organization in Canada. It aims to “help develop well rounded youth, better prepared for success in the world.” One unique feature of Scouts Canada is its co-ed program. Another is its commitment to diversity. Scouts Canada’s badge design contains the fleur-de-lis and the maple leaf within the tent formation of two sticks. Clearly, allegiance to country and organization forms the unspoken helm of Scouts Canada. Their fundamental beliefs are “Duty to God, Duty to Others and Duty to Self”, and have a non-discriminatory policy on the basis of gender, culture, sexual orientation or religious belief. It is also important to note that Scouts Canada members are not required to be adherents of any religion.
There is almost no place in the world that does not know of the Scouts. There are many youth centered organizations with different mottos, goals and objectives. The Boys and Girls Brigade, the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, YMCA, and YWCA are just some honourable mentions but the list is endless. Lord Baden-Powell said, “Teach Scouts not how to get a living, but how to live”, and Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” If the purpose we invest in the youths of our society is found anywhere between these two statements, then perhaps there is a chance we may see our world revolutionized for the better!