Bush Comforts Scouts, Honors Fallen Leaders

Succeeding on his third try to visit them, President Bush on Sunday comforted more than 75,000 Scouts, leaders, and guests of the 2005 National Scout Jamboree, who were reeling from the electrocution of four scout leaders just days before.

“Laura and I join Americans across our country in extending our sympathy and prayers to the families of the Scout leaders who lost their lives so tragically earlier this week,” said Bush, at the Bowling Green, Va., campsite.

"As scout leaders, they devoted themselves to helping young men develop the character and skills they need to realize their dreams. These men will always be remembered for their leadership and kindness, and you scouts honor them by living up to the ideals of the Scouting they served."

According to the Associated Press, four scout leaders died when a metal pole at the center of a large, white dining tent touched power lines and electrocuted them. Screams rang out as the tent caught fire and the men burned.

Touching on a lighter note, Bush told attendees that he was a former Cub Scout from Texas; the first man he sees every morning – chief of staff Andy Card – is a former Scout from Massachusetts; Vice President Dick Cheney was a Boy Scout in Wyoming; Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was an Eagle Scout in Illinois; and his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, was the den mother of his Scouting troop.

"It's about the time her hair turned white," he joked.

Overall, Bush’s speech was about patriotism and community and military service to the nation.

“When you join a Scout troop and put on the Boy Scout uniform you make a statement. Your uniform is a sign that you're a certain kind of citizen -- trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent,” said Bush, amid loud applause. “These are the values of scouting, and they're important values for America. By working to live up to them, you're bringing great credit to yourselves and to our nation.”

Bush’s visit marked his third attempt to address the Scouts, who are trying to end their 10-day, once-every-four-years gathering, with cheerful memories.

Bush’s first attempt on Wednesday was canceled because of threatening storms, and Scouts who were waiting for the President for hours began collapsing from high humidity and temperatures. More than 300 people fell ill, some collapsed, and they were treated for heat-related sicknesses.

Bush’s second attempt was postponed on Thursday upon the Scout’s requests. Officials wanted to review safety procedures for large crowds and replenish water and other supplies, according to the Associated Press.

Wednesday’s illnesses came just two days after the electrocution of the four adult Scout leaders. Killed were Michael J. Shibe, 49, Mike Lacroix, 42, and Ronald H. Bitzer, 58, all of Anchorage, Alaska; and Scott Edward Powell, 57, who had recently moved from Anchorage to Perrysville, Ohio. Shibe had two sons at the Jamboree and Lacroix had one. Three adults were injured, and one returned to the Jamboree after being released from the hospital.

A day before the freak-accident, a volunteer was taken to a hospital where he died of an apparent heart attack.

Despite the heavy grief that loomed over the jamboree, the scouts shouted out “Boy Scouts Rock!” when Bush addressed them.
“I'm standing in front of America's future leaders. When you follow your conscience, and the ideals you have sworn as a Scout, there is no limit to what you can achieve for our country,” Bush said amid cheers. “Continue to make right choices in life; continue to set high standards; continue to be a leader.”