More than 500 people gathered at the Union League of Philadelphia at Broad and Sansom streets Monday June 11 to attend the 2nd Annual Cradle of Liberty Gala, hosted by the Cradle of Liberty Council, Boy Scouts of America.
During the event, awards were distributed to former Boy Scouts who have gone on to make significant contributions to society, including Gov. Tom Corbett, Robert Cottone, Mary Meder and Kenneth C. Frazier.
Frazier, who is now chairman and CEO of Merck & Company, Inc, was raised on the 1800 block of York Street in North Philadelphia, and credited the scouts with making a difference in his life.
“I learned so much through my time in the Boy Scouts,” said Frazier, who said he attended the Boy Scouts as a youth through his church. “The men in my church believed in the development of young boys, and I was fortunate to have a scout troop that was completely intertwined with my church.”
As a youth, Frazier attended the Tioga United Methodist Church at 18th and Tioga sStreets and reflected fondly on some of his experiences with both the scouts and his church at that time.
“I think the most fond memory that I have is the first time that we took a camping trip to Valley Forge, and I remember I caught a frog. Coming from North Philadelphia, I had never seen a frog,” said Frazier.
According to Tom Harrington, CEO of the Cradle of Liberty Council, the scouts were once more common in churches than they are presently and the Council hopes to return to local communities.
“We’re told that in the ’50s and ’60s, every major African-American church had a Boy Scout troop, and lots of today’s top community leaders were scouts growing up in Philadelphia,” said Harrington. “We’re not at that place right now, and we would like to get back to that.”
Asked what he believed to be the reason for the decline in scout troops in the inner city, Harrington sited changes in social structure.
“There have been a lot of social changes that have happened in the last 50 years. Certainly changes in the American family, the divorce rate — a lot of families don’t have two parents in the home anymore — and when they do, both parents are working,” said Harrington.
He said one strategy for returning the scouts to its previous place in the community is to work directly with pastors.
“We want to work with local pastors to identify both men and woman who would volunteer to be Scout leaders, and we will provide the support and the training, and, if necessary, the financial support, to help their boys to get into uniform,” said Harrington.
Frazier believes that his experiences with the Boy Scouts had a direct impact on the success he achieved later in life.
“The virtues of scouting, including honesty, trustworthiness and hard work are all things that were very helpful to me,” said Frazier.
“I think the key thing is for young men and women to understand that they can transcend their immediate circumstances, and they can achieve anything that they want — but they have to believe they can.”
During the Gala, the Cradle of Liberty collected more than $500,000 in donations for the Boy Scouts of America, This, said Harrington, was the largest amount ever collected in a single event.