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Dale Sandstrom, Published February 12 2010

Boy Scout experience pivotal for many North Dakota leaders

Cub Scout Eddie stood at the front of the North Dakota House of Representatives chamber raising his right hand during the 45th Anniversary of Scouting Commemoration at the state Capitol in 1955. Other photos show Gov. Norman Brunsdale and other state officials participating in the ceremonies.

Cub Scout Eddie never forgot that important event.

Thirty-eight years later, Cub Scout Eddie, now an adult, again stood in front of the House of Representatives chamber in the state Capitol, raised his right hand, and said, “I, Edward T. Schafer, do solemnly swear … ” as he took the oath of office as North Dakota’s 30th governor.

Feb. 8 marked the official 100th anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts of America. The founding is being celebrated for a full year.

As part of the celebration, 1,000 or more Scouts will camp on the state Capitol grounds from June 4-6. The Scouts will learn more about state government and the responsibilities and opportunities of citizenship. Perhaps one or more of them will lead our state in the decades to come.

An English Boy Scout doing a good turn in the London fog inspired newspaperman William D. Boyce to found the Boy Scouts of America. But North Dakota played an important role as well. Earlier in his career, Boyce was in the newspaper business in Lisbon and Fargo. His years in North Dakota helped develop the love of the outdoors, which has always been a key component of the Scouting movement. Boyce returned to the Lisbon area to hunt and enjoy the outdoors for the rest of his life.

Theodore Roosevelt, “Chief Scout Citizen,” also played an important role in promoting the growth of Scouting and its lessons in citizenship, outdoor adventure, and the appreciation of nature.

The 112 million youths who have participated in Scouting have enriched their lives. Many have helped to preserve the freedom we enjoy. Working on merit badges, innumerable Scouts have discovered their talents and found their career fields.

A mother once told me that what her son learned in Scouting had saved his life when he used water survival skills following a boating accident. Bismarck native and Mayo Clinic transplant surgeon Charles Rosen told me he uses knots he learned at Heart Butte Scout Reservation on Lake Tschida when he performs transplant surgery.

When Devils Lake lawyer and state Sen. Ralph J. Erickstad was elected to the Supreme Court in the early 1960s, he and his young family moved to Bismarck, and he soon became the scoutmaster for Troop 14. Not long after, a family with young children moved from Williston to Bismarck, and brothers Wayne and Bob joined Troop 14. Ralph Erickstad had a long and distinguished career in public service, including 30 years on the Supreme Court and 20 years as chief justice. Wayne and Bob were inspired by scoutmaster Ralph Erickstad to their own careers in public service. Wayne Stenehjem is now North Dakota’s attorney general, and his brother Bob is the Senate majority leader.

Scouting makes a difference. Today, Scouting offers a worthwhile program for the entire family. Scouting is needed now more than ever. The values embodied in the Scout Oath and Law, life skills, leadership, an appreciation for the outdoors, good fun and friends, and succeeding generations of involved citizens are parts of Scouting’s lasting legacy.

Sandstrom is a justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court. In 1965, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. In 1997, he was named a Distinguished Eagle Scout by the Boy Scouts of America.