Giant marines flank the doors of the West Wing, unveiling the grandeur of the Oval Office. Standing ahead, is the President of the United States. “It takes your breath away to walk into the famous office that you see on TV every night,” said Eagle Scout Toby Capps of his incredible experience meeting President Gerald R. Ford forty years ago.
In 1975, Toby Capps represented the Boy Scouts of America as the youth representative for the Report to the Nation. At 18, he had the honor of presenting the report to our 38th president, the only Eagle Scout to hold office as the President of the United States.
While meeting the leader of the free world might sound intimidating or overwhelming, Toby recalls being calm and collected. He had a variety of Scouting leadership roles and says he hadn’t fully grasped how amazing the moment was at the time. “I think so much training with the Boy Scouts makes you feel very comfortable in leadership positions,” said Capps. “Now that I look back on it, I realize what an unbelievably special experience it was.”
Taking the President by Surprise
Little did President Ford know, the BSA delegation had a surprise up its sleeve. The group invited Charles M. Kendel, President Ford’s Troop 15 scoutmaster from his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI. The President’s face lit up in elation as he reminisced with his Scouting role model. Although decades had passed, the bond between Scout and Scoutmaster was evident. “It truly gave you a feeling of how important the role of Scoutmaster is,” recounts Capps. “You can impact so many kids’ lives and here’s the Scoutmaster that impacted the life of the President.”
Wrapped up in the joy of the moment, President Ford kept the crew an extra 10 minutes while swapping Scouting stories. “The totally welcoming feeling we got was really special,” Capps recalls of his favorite memory of the day. “You felt how much he loved the organization and how proud he was to be an Eagle Scout. It wasn’t just another meeting in the day. This was the organization he had been a part of since he was a kid and he loved it. He was proud of us.”
Lasting Impact of the Report to the Nation
The annual Report to the Nation is the perfect time to reflect on the past, while also looking forward. “It’s great to have this high profile platform to really tell the nation who the Boy Scouts are, what we are doing, and how we matter in the future of our country,” said Capps. “It is so important for America to realize what a significant part of our nation’s fabric the Boy Scouts is. For more than 100 years, the youth of America have been given leadership opportunities and training that they would never have in any other organization.”
Capps encourages parents to introduce their children to the organization as quickly and early as possible. “There is no other organization like this one to shape the futures of the young men and women who we serve,” Capps said. “There are so many opportunities to experience and learn things in Boy Scouts that you would never have the chance to do anywhere else.”
Capps’ Scouting adventures continue today serving as the operations chairman for the 2017 National Jamboree and the Western Region Chairman of the Order of the Arrow. He also sits on the National Order of the Arrow Committee, National Scouting Alumni Association Committee, Western Region Executive Board, and Chief Seattle Council Executive Board, where he chairs the NESA and SAA Committee.
Take it from Toby Capps and President Ford – with Scouting, the possibilities are endless.
Browse through the photo gallery to the left to see excerpts of President Ford’s daily diary and then get the inside scoop on what’s going on this year by checking out our daily recaps (Day 1 and 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5).