Imagine walking across the stage at commencement, hand open and ready to accept your diploma. But at the last moment, as your family and peers watch, you are denied your diploma, not because you did not complete your coursework or because your GPA was not high enough. No. You are rejected because you are Puerto Rican, or perhaps because you have green eyes instead of blue.
Ryan Andresen, a 17-year-old California high school senior, is experiencing that feeling right now as he is being denied the Eagle Scout Award – one that requires years of work and a slew of daunting tasks – on account of his sexuality. Andresen is gay, and because of that, the Boy Scouts of America are withholding his Eagle Scout title as it goes against principles that the BSA wishes to uphold.
The irony is that Andresen’s final project was the creation of a “tolerance wall,” a structure compiled of 288 tiles built to encourage those who have been targeted by bullying and hatred. To reject a boy preaching tolerance because of your own intolerant views should be a wake-up call to everyone.
These archaic modes of judgment have to be abolished. The idea that someone’s sexual orientation should overshadow their actual accomplishments in life is barbaric. His actions would have meant the exact same and would have helped the same youth cope with the difficulties of growing up had he been straight. And yet, all of his endeavors have been washed away by the bureaucratic policies designed by an organization hoping to assist today’s youth to grow up to be responsible adults who can assist in our growth as a nation.
The BSA needs a reimagining, a new conceptualization of the way it wants to assist those in an increasingly accepting society. To deny recognition of people’s achievements because of middling differences is to continue to deny the inevitable change around you. And we, as students, need to keep this within our thoughts as we challenge the future before us. Our views of others’ accomplishments should be based on the acts themselves, with details of the physical person put to the side, not the forefront.
We can and should be better than this.