Monday, June 25, 2012



Trustworthy: adj.  Worthy of Confidence, Dependable 

A Scout is Trustworthy is the first point of the Scout Law.  The word is reputed to have first been used in 1714.  The root of trustworthy is trust.  Trust is related the Old English word treowian "to believe” dating back several more centuries.  Belief is the cornerstone of trust and our current lack of belief in anything but ourselves is the force that is eroding it. 

A January ABC News poll asked the decades old poll question; “do you trust your government is doing the right thing”.  The response was a pitifully low number.  The analyst reported that it really was not a decrease in how many Americans trusted the government rather the perspective upon which they based that trust.  His premise was based on a trend showing that Americans trusted the government to do the right thing with regards to National Security with a far low percentage trusting that the government will do the right thing with regards to social issues.  I believe it is even simpler; no one keeps their word anymore. 
There is an old saying that a man’s word is his bond.   Agreements of all sorts were sealed with a handshake, oaths were taken seriously, and swearing on the bible was not a traditional ceremony but a statement that you were willing to risk the wrath of God himself should you break your oath.  Baden Powel wrote of the first point of the Scout law;

A SCOUT'S HONOUR IS TO BE TRUSTED.   If a scout says "On my honour it is so," that means it is so, just as if he had taken a most solemn oath. Similarly, if a scout officer says to a scout, "I trust you on your honour to do this," the Scout is bound to carry out the order to the very best of his ability, and to let nothing interfere with his doing so. If a scout were to break his honour by telling a lie, or by not carrying out an order exactly when trusted on his honour to do so, he would cease to be a scout, and must hand over his scout badge and never be allowed to wear it again.

Can you imagine a time where breaking your word would mean you would resign your post never to return.  How many former politicians can refer to that claim?  How many of the promises we hear today out of Washington are in fact superficial hyperbole.  One of the platforms on which our current President was elected to office was an increase in transparency in government.  In my humble opinion most people on hearing that would think the Government was going to be more honest, that they would improve on basic accountability and honor more freedom of information act requests.  As it turns out this is not the case.  This administrations definition of transparency is to make more data available to the general public. The cornerstone of this transparency initiative is  On you can find out how many earthquakes occurred worldwide in the last seven days, or what banks are on the FDIC failed bank list, or that most critical issue of transparency – Geo location data on farmers markets.  What about accountability, how about the release of documents to those seeking accountability?  Politico an American political journalism organization based in Arlington Virginia quoted long time Washington attorney Katherine Meyer as saying that the Obama administration was “the worst on FOIA issues since the law was passed during the Johnson administration”. (Marks, 2012)  Least I be accused of hypocrisy you should know that Politico has been accused by Media Matters as being “right leaning” but it is easy for you to look up this information on your own.    Further, as the Chief Executive of the United States I would expect the President to stand for accountability throughout government pushing all agencies and working equally as hard to hold both sides of the aisle in the legislative branch to a higher level of accountability to the American People.  Unfortunately this just does not appear to be the case, nor has it been the case in previous administrations Republican or Democrat for a very long time. 

There is a good chance that you may choose not to trust everything that I have written so far especially as I have cited several media sources.  “The credibility of mainstream media, including television, newspapers, and radio, continues to wane. In the U.S., the credibility of television news dropped 23 points in just two years (from 43 points in 2008 to 20 points in 2010). The credibility of radio news and newspapers fell 20 points over that period” (Stein, 2010)  A Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index published in May of this year shows that only 22% of Americans trust the nation’s financial system.  The National Journal printed a graphic representation of the results of a Gallop Poll showing that our trust in everything, from big business with a 1% drop to banks with a 23% drop, has decreased.  The few rays of hope were increases in the criminal justice system up 1% to churches and religious institutions with a 3% increase, and HMO’s leading the pack at 6%.  Why HMO’s can have a bigger increase than Churches is a topic all its own.
Lack of trustworthiness is not a condition unique to our government or our institutions.  We should take an honest look inward and ask if we are any different than those elected officials we casually vilify.  How many people feel that not being totally honest with the IRS is ok?  Is taking a sick day when you are not sick trustworthy?  How about extending a lunch break a few minutes because you already work hard enough?  A 2010 CBS Poll reported more than 63% of Americans knew someone who cheated on their spouse (CBS News, 2010) and the US divorce rate is well over 30%.  It appears the words; “from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness,” just do not constitute a solemn promise anymore. 
So where has all of our trust gone.  With many of our institutions found demonstrably untrustworthy comes a sense of despair from our moral center.  We also succumb, sometimes unconsciously to the institutional trend and start to display untrustworthy traits in ourselves.  This combination can lead to a sense of apathy about the situation and a downward spiral of our social and moral character.  This is a self perpetuating cycle.  Some people will tell you that you do not have to have religion to live a moral life or teach moral values.  That is a topic to be argued in another post so please at least accept the premise that it certainly does not hurt.   In America today 83% of Americans identify themselves with a denomination but only 40% attend weekly services. (Putnam & Campbell, 2010)  To me this seems like 83% of Americans have bought an insurance premium that has a “fitness program” but less than half are willing to pay the premium or use the free health club membership.  This does not do them any good now and certainly will be a lot worse when the time comes to collect on the policy.  For those that know me I know that you are thinking that this pretty general, almost secular example.  You are right.  Moving on though, Gallop has been asking this question since the late 1930s.   As it turns out the percentage of Americans who identify with a Christian Religion is down.  This is not because more Americans choose to belong to other than Christian religions but because more Americans do not choose to associate with any religion what so ever.  Further the number of Americans that do identify with a religion that actually go to church is down significantly over the years.  From the forties to the sixties more than 70% of Americans went to church.  This was a time of trust in government, in each other.  That number dropped in the late sixties and early seventies which [coincidently] coincided with a drop in trust in our government and a more liberal societal movement.  I wonder if a Nation that decreasingly is unable to place its trust in God is unable to place its trust in anything at all.

Can we as a people ever trust again?  I think that we can indeed.  Today our society is geared to “what have you done for me lately”.  Instant gratification is the rule of the day and the focus is on the material things rather than the moral elements.  It is hard to trust the Joneses if you are working so hard to get ahead of them all of the time.  The principle is actually pretty simple; we even teach it to Cub Scouts.  “Do Your Best” in all aspects of your life to include your relationships.  Do not expect miracles out of your leaders or members of your family but instead expect that they Do Their Best and prove it by opening themselves up to be accountable.  Admit mistakes and ask for forgiveness.  Hold yourself to your word and set an example.  Do onto others as you would have them do onto you is not a quaint archaism, it’s a life style. 

Works Cited

CBS News. (2010, Jan 1). Poll: 63% Know Spouse Who Cheated. Retrieved June 24, 2012, from

Marks, J. (2012, June). The Truth Behind Transparency. Government Executive , p. 21.

Putnam, R. D., & Campbell, D. E. (2010). American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. In R. D. Putnam, & D. E. Campbell, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (p. ch 1 at note 5). New York, New York, USA: Simon and Schuseter.

Stein, L. (2010, February 12). Where Has All The Trust Gone? Retrieved June 24, 2012, from Blogs:

Search Description
An essay on what it means to trust and our nations current lack of trust in anything but ourselves. The essay asks the questions, where has all the trust gone, and can we trust again.  It closes with a reiteration of a basic Scouting premise, Do Your Best.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments specific to the subject at hand. Requests for additional topics can be emailed to