By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 16, 2007 - A local Boy Scouts of America organization recognized Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for his lifelong devotion to scouting during an award ceremony here yesterday. Gates received the "Citizen of the Year" award, bestowed annually by the National Capital Area Council. Since 1968, the council has recognized individuals who have demonstrated exemplary leadership and dedication to community while serving as a role model to the nation's young people.
Gates earned the top rank of Eagle Scout as a youth in his native Kansas. He also received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award before he graduated from high school.
Participation in scouting prepares young people for positions of leadership, instills character, and teaches responsible behavior, Gates observed after receiving his award from former Army and Veterans Affairs secretary Togo D. West Jr., who also is a distinguished Eagle Scout.
"I know that I, personally, learned these lessons first in Boy Scouts, and have used them every step of the journey that led to where I am today," Gates pointed out.
Becoming and excelling as a Boy Scout, Gates said, helped to form his personality and character. Persistence, successful goal-setting and self-discipline -- character traits necessary in earning an Eagle Scout badge -- would well serve the future CIA director and defense secretary in later years.
"That early achievement gave me the confidence to tackle the increasingly complex challenges that I would face later in life," Gates said.
Leadership skills and an understanding of the importance of character and personal responsibility "are three of the most important gifts I've ever received, and I received them from the Boy Scouts of America," he added.
These traits of strong character are demonstrated daily by U.S. servicemembers engaged in the global war on terrorism, Gates said. "I see these attributes displayed by the brave men and women of our armed forces who serve and sacrifice every day in battle against an unrelenting enemy determined to do our country harm," he said.
The United States is presented with unprecedented threats, Gates said, but he added that he's hopeful and optimistic that Americans also "face a world full of unprecedented hope and opportunity."
"Scouting provides the kind of optimistic, confident and skilled young leaders of integrity who will ensure that we fulfill the hope and seize the opportunity," Gates said.
When he became secretary of defense in December 2006, Gates resigned his membership on the Boy Scouts national board and stepped down as president of the National Eagle Scouts Association, a position he'd held since 1996. In 2000, Gates received scouting's prestigious "Silver Buffalo" award for his service to youth on a national level.
Previous "Citizen of the Year" award recipients include a roster of past and present chief executives, including Presidents George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Gerald R. Ford, as well as other distinguished leaders in government and industry.