Good for Robert Gates (from The Wall Street Journal):
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a former Eagle Scout, addressed the Boy Scout jamboree being held at Virginia’s Fort A.P. Hill. — and struck a decidedly cranky tone.
In his Wednesday speech, Gates said that young Americans are “increasingly physically unfit,” and cast doubts their character, too. Quoting Walter Lippman, Gates said he sees daily “the disaster of the character of men” and “the catastrophe of the soul.”
But, he was quick to add, not among Boy Scouts.
“At a time when many American young people are turning into couch potatoes, and too often much worse, scouting continues to challenge boys and young men, preparing you for leadership,” Gates said.
Gates praised scouting for pushing young people into the wilderness to learn both about nature and self reliance. He also said the Boy Scout’s great contribution was encouraging public service. “The scouting movement shows dramatically that service, public service, still beckons the best among us to do battle with complacency, neglect, intolerance, and the emptiness of the spirit that are the common enemies of social peace and justice,” he said.
It is not entirely clear what set off Gates and prompted him to call out America as a nation of couch potatoes. But the military has struggled in recent years with finding recruits that are physically fit enough to enlist in the military. Mission: Readiness, a group of retired senior military leaders, estimated this year that 27% of 17- to 24-year-old Americans are too overweight to join the military. And the Defense Department has said that more than 47,000 would-be recruits were turned away between 2005 and 2008 for being overweight.