A statement from Chief Scout Bear Grylls
In 1907, a new movement was born on Brownsea Island, in Poole Harbour Dorset – one that would bring skills, adventure and friendships to millions of young people around the world today.
It was on that small island that Robert Baden-Powell founded the Scouts, taking a small group of young people from diverse backgrounds, with the goal to learn about the great outdoors, and show that we had more in common than divides us.
Since that first camp, Scouting has grown year on year to become today a worldwide family, some 54 million strong, across almost every nation on earth. It is, without doubt, one of the greatest youth movements in history.
The clear purpose back then (and still today) was to unite and inspire young people to learn how to celebrate their differences, to love and protect the outdoor world, to serve communities, and to be empowered with skills for life. And that is the legacy of the Scouts that lives and breathes today.
It is in our nature, as Scouts, to endeavour to be open, respectful, and compassionate to all, and to be leaders of determination and intergity.
That’s why those first Scouts, and the ones that followed, made a promise to be kind and helpful. It is the very heart of what we do.
This last week, people have expressed much confusion and anger at the possible removal of a statue of Lord Baden-Powell in Poole. To me, and many Scouts around the world, Brownsea Island, (the place that the statue looks out on), is a reminder of that great Scouting vision, that has since helped so many young people gain vital, life-enhancing skills for their own futures.
As Scouts, we most certainly do not celebrate Baden-Powell for his failings. We see them and we acknowledge them. And if he were here today we would disagree with him on many things, of that there is no doubt. And I suspect he would too.
But we also recognise that Baden-Powell is part of our history, and history is nothing if we do not learn from it. So we also acknowledge Baden-Powell's vision, and I truly am so grateful to him for starting the Scouts - a living, breathing, modern movement that has immense power to unite and inspire people.
This is why I whole-heartedly stand beside the righteous anger unleashed by the killing of George Floyd, and together we must all do what we can to right the awful injustices that BAME communities live with every day.
And it's right that we take time to listen, to educate ourselves, and reflect on our movement’s history. We need the humility to recognise there are times when the views and actions from our Scouting’s past do not always match the values we live by today. We must learn, adapt, and improve.
Scouting, to me, is founded on this humility, and on listening and respecting others, especially communities that are vulnerable or oppressed. Inclusion and acceptance are at the heart of our Scouting values, and we are never afraid to call out language and behaviour that do not match those values.
I hope that as Scouts we are the anti-thesis of any hatred or polarisation that can come with social media. And when it comes to racism – indeed any form of discrimination or prejudice – our movement should be part of the solution, not the problem. We must be peace makers and unifiers.
Baden-Powell may have taken the first step in creating Scouting, but the journey continues today without him. We know where we came from but we are not going back. We are always looking forward, to a brighter future for our young people.
And as for the statue of Baden-Powell? Well, my hope is that Scouting statues in the future will be there to remind us all of one thing: the huge positive influence that Scouting continues to bring to so many young people worldwide. And long may that continue.