President Donald Trump at a Jan. 26, 2016, campaign stop at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, when he was running for the Republican nomination. Credit: Danielle Wilde/IowaWatch file photo

A do-over.

All of us, if we are honest, have wished for the opportunity for a fresh start at something at one time or another.

Our president isn’t wired that way — at least not in public — to admit that he would like to take a mulligan and try again on something.

Randy Evans


Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He is a former editorial page editor and assistant managing editor of The Des Moines Register.

Visit the Iowa Freedom of Information Council website at:

I’m no expert on presidential oratory, but I think the president’s speech last week to the National Jamboree of the Boy Scouts of America was a missed opportunity. The speech could have benefited from a do-over.

If I were delivering that speech, I would have used a do-over to focus on the audience there in West Virginia, not on the crowds that have attended the president’s past rallies across the U.S.

This audience was upwards of 40,000 Boy Scouts. This wasn’t an arena filled with Donald Trump’s adult fans and fanatics.

This was a crowd waiting to be inspired and motivated. This wasn’t a crowd that came for the usual doses of Trump rallying lines.

It took no effort for the president to dip into his speech file and grab his past go-to lines about the size of his election victory, or how the victory surprised many people and the TV pundits.

While he was talking about “fake news” and cocktail parties attended by “the hottest people,” the president missed a chance to focus the attention of the Scouts and their leaders, and the broader TV audience, on these teenagers who will be tomorrow’s leaders.

If I were giving the speech, I would have started by thanking the tens of thousands of Scout leaders, all volunteers, who give freely of their time to motivate and inspire young boys who are on their way to becoming young gentlemen. I would have told them about my cousin in Independence, Mo., who has been a Scout leader for more than 50 years.

Back when I was a Cub Scout down in Bloomfield it was our mothers who organized the meetings. By the time I moved up to the Boy Scouts, men like Veryl Arnold, Fred Lundstrom and H.B. Gentry were the ones who kept us focused on learning new skills while always remembering to honor our flag and our nation.

I still remember being in a swarm of Scouts who planted thousands of trees at Lake Wapello. Veryl Arnold taught us about the various species of pine trees we were putting into the soil.

One of my proud accomplishments was bringing home three or four extra trees and nurturing them, first in flower pots inside during the winter and then in our yard. I was able — with help from Mother Nature, of course — to turn those 6-inch seedlings into 25-footers by the time I was out in the working world.

If I were giving that speech to the National Jamboree, instead of bragging about the election victory last November, I would have talked about two words that guide all Scouts: Be prepared.

I would have told them about 93 boys and two dozen leaders, adults and teenagers, who were camping at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in western Iowa on the evening of June 11, 2008.

They were there for a leadership training program. But the ultimate test of their leadership came that evening when a tornado, one of 28 to ravage the Midwest, gnawed its way through the camp. Four Scouts lost their lives; 48 other people were injured.

But in the midst of the devastation, chaos and fear, the Scouts’ training kicked in and they knew what to do. If I were president, I would have told the National Jamboree that one of the biggest tragedies to hit the Boy Scouts of America actually was one of Scouting’s finest hours.

These boys — ranging from 13 to 18 years — immediately jumped into action while waiting for professional rescuers to reach the camp.

The Scouts dug their friends out from under the rubble and assessed their injuries. They used their shirts to make tourniquets to stop the most serious bleeding. They did CPR to restart the breathing of the most seriously injured.

I would remind the jamboree crowd of what the fire chief from nearby Blencoe said about the Little Sioux Scout Ranch that evening: “It’s the Scouts that saved a lot of lives. The Scouts did exactly what they were trained to do.”

I would tell the Scouts about one of the boys killed there, Aaron Eilerts, 14, of Eagle Grove. Scouts are encouraged to do good deeds, and that certainly was how Aaron lived in his life. Each year since the Little Sioux tragedy, by proclamation of Iowa’s governor, Iowans are encouraged to honor Aaron by participating in the Aaron Eilerts Day of Service and Giving.

Had I been speaking at the jamboree, these are the things I would have talked about. These would have been more important for the Scouts to hear than his belief about the unfairness of the Electoral College or his take on the failings of his predecessor or the need to kill Obamacare.

The Scouts needed to hear that with all of the challenges our nation faces, we need more young men like them with the values and character and can-do attitude that are found in Boy Scouts.

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Randy Evans can be reached at

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