Setting the Record Straight: Presidential Visits to the BSA National Jamboree


In reading some comments on a Bryan on Scouting blog post, someone lamented that President Obama did not attend that National Jamboree while “every other President attended Boy Scout Jamborees while in office.” I was curious as to how accurate that statement was, as I’ve heard it several times prior to that comment. In doing some quick searching, I found that there is no one site that has all the information. I started a step-by-step search (each Jamboree and each President of the United States) to compile the following information, using Google search results that included BSA National’s website, Wikipedia, Youtube and various other sources. What I found is that the assertion that “Every other President attended Boy Scout Jamborees while in office” is inaccurate. It is true that President Obama has not attended a National Jamboree, but neither have several sitting Presidents of the United States (POTUS) since the BSA started holding National Jamborees.

There have been 14 different men holding the position of POTUS since the First National Jamboree. Two of those men, Presidents John F. Kennedy and Gerald R. Ford, were unable to attend a BSA National Jamboree while in office as no event occurred during their terms. Of the remaining 12 men, only 8 visited a BSA National Jamboree while in office. Below is a timeline compiling that information:

Presidents of The United States of America since the inception of the BSA National Jamboree Year Boy Scouts of America National Jamborees
FDRPresident Franklin Delano Roosevelt
32nd President of the United States of America
04-Mar-1933 – 12-Apr-1945
Party Affiliation: Democratic
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: 1 (1935, 1937)
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: Yes (1937)
President Roosevelt was scheduled to attend the inaugural Jamboree in 1935, but the event was cancelled due to an outbreak of Polio. He later did open the 1937 First National Jamboree in Washington, D.C. It was the only Jamboree during his time in office, the next would not occur for 13 more years.
Note: President Roosevelt was the first POTUS to have been an active Scouter before becoming President.
1933
1934
1935 1st National Jamboree
Originally scheduled for August 21-30, 1935 in Washington, D.C.
Cancelled due to outbreak of Polio.
1935 Jamboree Patch
1936
1937 1st National Jamboree
Location: Washington, D.C.
Dates: June 30 – July 9, 1937
POTUS Attended: YES

image006 image008

Figure 1: President Roosevelt with Boy Scouts at the 1937 Jamboree
1938
1939
1940
1941
1942
1943
1944
1945
Truman President Harry S. Truman
33rd President of the United States of America
12-Apr-1945 – 20-Jan-1953
Party Affiliation: Democratic
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: 1 (1950)
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: Yes (1950)
President Truman opened the Second National Jamboree at Valley Forge in 1950. It was the only Jamboree during his time in office.Interesting note: President Truman’s middle name was the letter “S,” given to him in honor of two different relatives.
1946
1947
1948
1949
1950 2nd National Jamboree
Location: Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
Dates: June 27 – July 6, 1950
POTUS Attended: YES
Note: Attended by then General Dwight Eisenhower

image012 image014

Figure 2: President Truman at the 1950 Jamboree
1951
1952
1953 3rd National Jamboree
Location: Irvine Ranch, CA
Dates: July 17 – July 23, 1953
POTUS Attended: NO
Note: Attended by then Vice-President Richard Nixonimage016
image018President Dwight David Eisenhower
34th President of the United States of America
20-Jan-1953 – 20-Jan-1961
Party Affiliation: Republican
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: 3 (1953, 1957, 1960)
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: Yes (1960)
President Eisenhower was POTUS during the times of the Third, Fourth & Fifth National Jamborees in 1953, 1957 & 1960. He only attended the Fifth National Jamboree in Colorado Springs in 1960, sending his Vice President, Richard Nixon, to speak at the 1953 and 1957 Jamborees. A side note is that President Eisenhower did also attend and speak at the 1950 National Jamboree when he was General Eisenhower.
1954
1955
1956
1957 4th National Jamboree
Location: Valley Forge, PA
Dates: July 12 – July 18, 1957
POTUS Attended: NO
Note: Attended by then Vice-President Richard Nixon

image020
image022Figure 3: Sub-camp photo from 1957 National Jamboree

Another note: While President Eisenhower did not attend the Jamboree, two very important people to my family did. My father, Raymond L. “Cap” Walker Jr. (Eagle Class of ’59 from Newark OH Explorer Post #5, part of Licking County Council), attended as a youth member of his council’s contingent. Also, my wife’s grandfather, the Rev. H. Eugene Taylor, attended as an adult leader with the Muskingum Valley Council contingent.

 

1958
1959
1960 5th National Jamboree
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Dates: July 22 – July 28, 1960
POTUS Attended: YES

image024
image026Figure 4: President Eisenhower with Boy Scouts at the 1960 National Jamboree
1961
image028President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
35th President of the United States of America
20-Jan-1961 – 22-Nov-1963
Party Affiliation: Democratic
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: None
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: N/A
President Kennedy never had the opportunity to attend a BSA National Jamboree while in office. The Jamboree that would normally have been in 1961 was moved up to 1960 to coincide with the BSA’s 50th anniversary (similar to how the 17th National Jamboree was pushed back a year to coincide with our 100th anniversary), which was during President Eisenhower’s term. President Kennedy was assassinated before the 1964 Sixth National Jamboree in Valley Forge.
Note: President Kennedy was the first POTUS to have been involved in Scouting as a youth from 1929 – 1931, where he attained the Life rank.
1962
1963
image030President Lyndon Baines Johnson
36th President of the United States of America
22-Nov-1963 – 20-Jan-1969
Party Affiliation: Democratic
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: 1 (1964)
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: Yes (1964)
President Johnson did attend that Sixth National Jamboree in 1964. It was the only Jamboree during his time in office.
Note on the picture to the right is that it is one of the few I could find of President Johnson with Boy Scouts. I do not believe this came from the 1964 National Jamboree. If someone has a picture of President Johnson from the 1964 Jamboree they’d like to contribute it would be greatly appreciated!
1964 6th National Jamboree
Location: Valley Forge, PA
Dates: July 17 – July 23, 1964
POTUS Attended: YES

image032
image034Figure 5: President Johnson with a group of Scouts.
1965
1966
1967
1968
1969 7th National Jamboree
Location: Farragut State Park, ID
Dates: July 16 – July 22, 1969
POTUS Attended: NOimage036
image038President Richard Milhous Nixon
37th President of the United States of America
20-Jan-1969 – 09-Aug-1974
Party Affiliation: Republican
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: 2 (1969, 1973)
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: No
President Nixon was in office during the Seventh and Eighth National Jamborees in 1969 and 1973 (1973 being split into two locations). He did not attend any of those events. However, he did attend the 1953 & 1957 Jamborees while he was serving as Vice President to President Eisenhower.
1970
1971
1972
1973 8th National Jamboree
Locations: Farragut State Park, ID and Moraine State Park, PA
Dates: August 1 – August 7 (ID) and August 3 – August 9 (PA), 1973
POTUS Attended: NOimage040
1974
image042President Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr.
38th President of the United States of America
09-Aug-1974 – 20-Jan-1977
Party Affiliation: Republican
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: None
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: N/A
President Gerald R. Ford, to date our first and only Eagle Scout to become President of the United States, was not in office during the time of a BSA National Jamboree, having taken the office after the resignation of President Nixon and only serving a partial term in the office.
1975
1976
1977 9th National Jamboree
Location: Moraine State Park, PA
Dates: August 3 – August 9, 1977
POTUS Attended: NOimage044
image046President James Earl Carter, Jr.
39th President of the United States of America
20-Jan-1977 – 20-Jan-1981
Party Affiliation: Democratic
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: 1 (1977)
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: No
President Carter was in office during the time of the Ninth National Jamboree in 1977. He did not attend the event.
1978
1979
1980
1981 10th National Jamboree
Location: Fort A.P. Hill, VA
Dates: July 29 – August 4, 1981
POTUS Attended: NOimage048
image050President Ronald Wilson Reagan
40th President of the United States of America
20-Jan-1981 – 20-Jan-1989
Party Affiliation: Republican
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: 2 (1981, 1985)
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: No
President Ronald Reagan was in office during the times of the Tenth and Eleventh National Jamborees in 1981 and 1985. He attended neither, but did send his wife Nancy to speak at the 1985 National Jamboree.
1982
1983
1984
1985 11th National Jamboree
Location: Fort A.P. Hill, VA
Dates: July 24 – July 30, 1985
POTUS Attended: NOimage052
President Reagan was scheduled to appear at the 1985 National Jamboree, but had to cancel his visit due to recent cancer surgery.
1986
1987
1988
1989 12th National Jamboree
Location: Fort A.P. Hill, VA
Dates: August 3 – August 9, 1989
POTUS Attended: YES

image054
image056Figure 6: President Bush addresses the 1989 National Jamboree.
image058President George Herbert Walker Bush
41st President of the United States of America
20-Jan-1989 – 20-Jan-1993
Party Affiliation: Republican
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: 1 (1989)
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: Yes (1989)
President George H.W. Bush attended the Twelfth National Jamboree in 1989. It was the only event during his time in office. His attendance broke a streak of five straight Jamborees without the sitting President attending. The last time a sitting President attended Jamboree was President Johnson in 1964, some 25 years earlier.
1990
1991
1992
1993 13th National Jamboree
Location: Fort A.P. Hill, VA
Dates: August 4 – August 10, 1993
POTUS Attended: NOimage060
image062President William Jefferson Clinton
42nd President of the United States of America
20-Jan-1993 – 20-Jan-2001
Party Affiliation: Democratic
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: 2 (1993, 1997)
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: Yes (1997)
President William Clinton was in office during the Thirteenth and Fourteenth National Jamborees in 1993 and 1997. He did not attend in 1993 but did attend in 1997.
Note: President Clinton was the third POTUS to have been in Scouting as a youth, where he was a Cub Scout.
1994
1995
1996
1997

14th National Jamboree
Location: Fort A.P. Hill, VA
Dates: July 28 – August 6, 1997
POTUS Attended: YES

image064
image066Figure 7: President Clinton greets Scouts at the 1997 Jamboree.
1998
1999
2000
2001 15th National Jamboree
Location: Fort A.P. Hill, VA
Dates: July 23 – August 1, 2001
POTUS Attended: NOimage068
image070President George Walker Bush
43rd President of the United States of America
20-Jan-2001 – 20-Jan-2009
Party Affiliation: Republican
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: 2 (2001, 2005)
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: Yes (2005)
Likewise, President Bush was in office during two National Jamborees, the Fifteenth and Sixteenth in 2001 and 2005, but only attended in 2005.
Note: Like President Clinton, President Bush was also a Cub Scout for a time in his youth.
2002
2003
2004
2005 16th National Jamboree
Location: Fort A.P. Hill, VA
Dates: July 25 – August 3, 2005
POTUS Attended: YES

image072
image074Figure 8: President Bush at the 2005 Jamboree.
2006
2007
2008
2009
image076President Barack Hussein Obama
44th President of the United States of America
20-Jan-2009 – 20-Jan-2017
Party Affiliation: Democratic
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: 2 (2010, 2013)
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: No
President Obama did not attend either the Seventeenth or Eighteenth National Jamborees held while he has been in office in 2010 and 2013. These were the only opportunities that President Obama had to attend a jamboree while in office.
Note: President Obama was not involved with the BSA as a youth, but he was a member of the Indonesian Scout Organization where he was the equivalent of a Cub Scout.
2010 17th National Jamboree
Location: Fort A.P. Hill, VA
Dates: July 26 – August 4, 2010
POTUS Attended: NOimage078
2011
2012
2013 18th National Jamboree
Location: Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, WV
Dates: July 15 – July 24, 2013
POTUS Attended: NO

image080
image082Figure 9: Middletownscouter and daughter at the 2013 Jamboree.

Another note: While President Obama did not attend this event, it was visited by a head of state, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. This event also holds a special place for me as two very important people to my family did attend. My two children, Bear Bait and Tangled, were part of the Dan Beard Council contingent (he a Boy Scout with Troop D344, and she a Venturer (part of the first group ever!) with Crew F612A. I also got to be a visitor for a day, spend some time with my daughter and catch the second Arena show.

2014
2015
2016
2017 19th National Jamboree
Location: Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, WV
Dates: July 19 – July 28, 2017
POTUS Attending: Scheduled to Attend

image084
IMG_5130
Figure 10: President Trump at the 2017 Jamboree.
IMG_5117Figure 11: Middletownscouter and family at the 2017 Jamboree.

Another note: Bear Bait and Tangled were back again as part of the Dan Beard Council contingent (he a Boy Scout and Patrol Leader with Troop 2320, and she a Venturer with Crew 5257. I also was able to attend a second time, this time with my wife, getting to spend time at The Summit with the kids and attend the Saturday Arena Show.

President Trump official photo

President Donald John Trump
45th President of the United States of America
20-Jan-2017 – President
Party Affiliation: Republican
BSA Jamborees while POTUS: 1  (2017)
Attended Jamborees while POTUS: Yes (2017)
President Trump attended the nineteenth national jamboree in 2017, speaking on Monday just before the second arena show.

This listing above only details IF a sitting POTUS attended the National Jamboree, but doesn’t go in depth as to what they did or said while on site.  For more details about each visit made by a sitting POTUS, I’d suggest checking out this post from Bryan on Scouting.

Analysis: What Does it Mean?

Truth be told, it is actually more common for the POTUS to not attend a National Jamboree than it is for him to show up.

8 of 12 sitting Presidents have attended a BSA National Jamboree. At 67%, that’s a two thirds of the Presidents who attended.

Of the 19 National Jamborees that have occurred (not counting the cancelled 1935 National Jamboree and combining both 1973 locations into one event), a sitting President of the United States of America has only attended 8 times. That’s only about 42% of the time.

The longest streak of sitting POTUS visits to a Jamboree is two. This happened twice, in 1937 & 1950 (Presidents Roosevelt & Truman) and again in 1960 & 1964 (Presidents Eisenhower & Johnson).

The longest streak of Jamborees without a sitting POTUS visit is five, from 1969 through 1985 (Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter & Reagan).

The only Presidents who attended every Jamboree for which they were sitting POTUS were those who only had the Jamboree occur once during their time in office (Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, and George H.W. Bush).

The Presidents who were in office during two or more Jamborees either attended only once (Presidents Eisenhower, Clinton, and George W. Bush), or not at all (Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Obama).

President Carter is the sole POTUS who only had one Jamboree occur during his time in office and did not attend.

Not to take this too far into the political arena, but people have and will always go there, so here’s a few quick numbers. Of the 14 Presidents, 7 (50%) were from the Republican Party and 7 (50%) were from the Democratic Party. Of the 2 who could not attend a Jamboree while in office, 1 was from each party. Of the remaining 6 Republican Presidents, 4 of 6 (67%) attended a jamboree and of the 6 Democratic Presidents, 4 of 6 (67%) attended. 4 of 8 (50%) National Jamborees held during the tenure of a Democratic President were attended by that POTUS. 4 of 11 (36%) National Jamborees held during the tenure of a Republican President were attended by that POTUS. All in all, it is pretty right down the middle.

In the end, what does it all mean? That it is pretty cool to the tens of thousands of Scouts and Scouters when a sitting President of the United States of America visits a National Jamboree. But it doesn’t happen as often as everyone seems to think.

Bottom line, in the end a POTUS attending Jamboree doesn’t make or break the event, and him attending doesn’t happen as often as people like to think.

Final Note: A POTUS’s record on attending the National Jamboree is only one small portion of his record with the BSA and isn’t always an quick indicator of how Scout-friendly he was (or is). Carter was a Cubmaster, Scoutmaster and Exploring Advisor, and Reagan was very involved as an adult Scouter, but neither attended the Jamboree while they were in office. Roosevelt was a former council President (and the first POTUS to have been a Scouter).  Eisenhower was a member of the BSA’s National Executive Board. Johnson was an active Scouter in Texas, and helped establish an Explorer Post in Washington D.C. at the Capitol. Nixon attended two Jamborees as Vice-President and hosted an Explorer meeting at the capitol while he was President.  In fact, since President Roosevelt became the first POTUS to have been actively involved as a Scout or Scouter as a youth or adult, only Presidents Truman, Nixon, H.W. Bush, and Trump had no active involvement as a registered Scout or Scouter.  If you’d like to know more about the Scouting background of each POTUS, check out this post from the The Voice of Scouting website.

-Middletownscouter

[Editorial Note: 24-Jul-2017, I have updated this page fully to reflect President Trump’s attendance at the 2017 Jamboree earlier today, as well as adding quite a bit more information about the Scouting history of many of the Presidents listed.  Previous editorial notes have been removed.]

Image Credits
All National Jamboree Logos: http://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2014/11/06/every-national-scout-jamboree-logo-1935-2017/
All Presidential Portraits: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/photogallery/official-portraits-us-presidents
Photograph of President Obama: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/imagecache/admin_official_lowres/administration-official/ao_image/president_official_portrait_hires.jpg
Photograph of President Trump: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images/45/PE%20Color.jpg
Figure 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pres_Roosevelt_and_Boy_Scouts_in_1937.jpg
Figure 2: http://www.nps.gov/common/uploads/photogallery/20140626/park/vafo/7745CDA2-155D-451F-6710FB214B446497/7745CDA2-155D-451F-6710FB214B446497.png
Figure 3: digitized scan by Middletownscouter from the archives of Raymond L. “Cap” Walker Jr.
Figure 4: http://www.nps.gov/common/uploads/photogallery/20140626/park/vafo/773C3FCF-155D-451F-671EF55834A7DE8A/773C3FCF-155D-451F-671EF55834A7DE8A.png
Figure 5: http://www.scouting.org/filestore/jpg/factsheet_lbj.jpg
Figure 6: http://scoutingmagazine.org/issues/0409/art/as-00.jpg
Figure 7: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/PPP-PHOTOS-1997-book2/PPP-PHOTOS-1997-book2-folio-D/content-detail.html
Figure 8: http://www.idyllopuspress.com/meanwhile/images/jamboree1.jpg
Figure 9: Middletownscouter
Figure 10: Middletownscouter’s daughter
Figure 11: Middletownscouter
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Comments

  • Scott Kuperman  On March 15, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    THANK YOU FOR THIS.

  • Allison  On January 27, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    I heard this comment at a Boy Scout campout by one of the adult leaders. Didn’t want to talk politics so I did not take the bait. Glad to see this here. Maybe if I see the person in the community, I will direct attention to this page. Well done.

  • Tim Pittman  On April 6, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    I’m wondering – if the Chief executive was not able to attend, was there a time where he sent greetings in a video? I think that also shows the importance of recognizing Scouts. Is there a way to check that?

    • middletownscouter  On April 6, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      That may be possible to check into especially now that just about everything is showing up on YouTube.

  • Mike Walton (settummanque)  On April 6, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    OUTSTANDING, Scott!! Thank you VERY MUCH for the research and information. May I please link this to the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc. (USSSP)’s area about Jamborees, crediting you for the information and research; and my personal website as well with the same credits? Thanks!

    Settummanque!

  • Larry Green  On July 8, 2017 at 3:31 am

    Edifying.

  • Rich Berg  On July 21, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    They announced today that President Trump will attend on Monday…we shall see. Great article.

  • Adam R. Cox  On July 22, 2017 at 4:34 am

    Reblogged this on Scouter Adam: Notes from the District Commish and commented:
    Just in case people wanted to know more about POTUS and the National Jamboree. This is a great blog post.

  • clbirk  On July 24, 2017 at 12:19 am

    A side note, Ronald Reagan was recovering from colon cancer surgery that happend 7/13/85 and so that is why the first lady nancy reagan came.

  • Craig Van Steenbergen  On July 24, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    I wonder how many times that the POTUS was scheduled to attend and the show was re-scheduled due to increment weather and he couldn’t then rearrange his schedule, as happened to President Bush in 2001?

  • Carly Baker  On July 24, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    Bottom line …these boys only remember two presidents..Obama & Trump; Obama gave them the shove off twice, 2010 & 2013; Trump showed up after only 6 months in office!

  • Sam  On July 25, 2017 at 1:26 am

    Thank you for this. Nicely done!

  • Curious  On July 25, 2017 at 1:29 am

    This is interesting info. Do you know how many were scouts or Eagle Scout?

    • middletownscouter  On July 25, 2017 at 1:33 am

      President Ford is the only POTUS to have been an Eagle Scout. Several other men who held the office of President of the United States were involved in Scouting during their youth. President Kennedy was a Boy Scout as a youth, the first President to have been involved with the BSA as a youth. Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush were both Cub Scouts in their youth; and finally so was President Obama, who participated in the Indonesian scouting group and was the equivalent of a Cub Scout.

      While several were involved in Scouting as adults, Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Trump were not Scouts in their youth.

    • jen  On July 25, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      The only President to be an Eagle Scout was President Gerald R. Ford.

  • Cary Crawford  On July 25, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Great article! Thanks for the information AND for setting the record straight with FACTS!

  • Matthew Wusinich  On July 25, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Nice work here. I shared this on FB.

  • SoCal Scout, NorCal Scouter  On July 25, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Exactly what I was searching for – thanks very much for putting this together! And, I applaud your non-partisan approach!

  • Eva Adams  On July 25, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Please note that Obama did send a video message to the 2010 Jamboree. It was published in Time magazine today.

    • middletownscouter  On July 25, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      Thanks Eva. I am planning on expanding this article to include video messages, but I am still researching all the Jamborees. I already knew about President Obama sending a video message in 2010. I’m also aware of President Bush sending a video in 2001 and possibly others. I will add this expansion once I’m done checking on the other Jamborees where the POTUS didn’t physically appear.

  • J Beck  On July 26, 2017 at 1:48 am

    A Scout commissioner in my family said that President Obama was unable to attend the Jamboree because of National security reasons at the time.

  • John R Timmers  On July 26, 2017 at 2:59 am

    So cool you made this. I also attended the Centennial with my Miami Valley Council troop, but we stayed in a hotel and were visitors for a few days so we didn’t get the full effect. Trump’s speech was ok this year, not great, but I’m just glad he attended. It irritated me that we arrived to see Obama speak and instead watched a minute and a half long video he made in his free time. Trump definitely took advantage of looking better than him.

  • R Rutherford  On July 26, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    13th Annual Jamboree should fall in the Clinton bracket not the Bush as it was during his term.

  • Andrew  On July 28, 2017 at 4:44 am

    Thank you for facts. Verifiable facts are a fantastic blessing and in far too short supply these days.

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