Boy Scouts confirm Gates as president at Nashville meeting - WSMV Channel 4

Boy Scouts confirm Gates as president at Nashville meeting

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV-AP) -

A man who once led the CIA and Department of Defense is now focusing on the nation's future leaders. Robert Gates is the new president of the Boy Scouts of America.

The group's national council voted to approve Gates for the volunteer role on Thursday at the organization's annual meeting in Nashville.

Gates is no stranger to the Boy Scouts. He was a Boy Scout himself. And he spoke Friday for the first time in his new role as president.

He says the best leadership course he ever took came at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

"It was the National Junior Leader Training Program, and lessons I learned there at 15 [years old] stayed with me the rest of my life," Gates said.

Gates took those lessons to the CIA, where he served as director, and later to the Pentagon.

While defense secretary, Gates oversaw the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, a policy excluding openly gay soldiers.

"The difference is with those organizations I could give a directive, and people would salute and go do what they were supposed to. Scouting is an all-volunteer organization," Gates said.

Last May, the Boy Scouts' national board voted to allow openly gay children to become scouts, but they still won't allow openly gay scout leaders.

Gates says he supports the group's decision and believes, if pushed, it could be divisive to the organization.

"A significant portion of our troops are sponsored by religious groups, and they, obviously, have very strong feelings about this," he said. "I think it would lead to a very serious rift in the movement and could possibly destroy it."

Gates says it's time to focus on what's most important: The children. He wants to see the Boy Scouts reach more under-served kids.

He says to get them involved, the organization needs to be more aggressive to recruit more minority adult scout leaders.

"Having these new volunteers, especially if they come from these under-served communities, I think would be a tremendous asset to scouting. The truth is we need to look more like the country looks," Gates said.

Gates' term as president of the Boy Scouts of America will last two years.

Copyright 2014 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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