If the Girl Scouts ran Paradise, this is what it would be like: bright and sunny blue skies with high cumulus clouds, enough of a breeze to cool down the afternoon sun, plenty of red/white/blue popsicles and bags full of patches for trading, a spectrum of colorful T-shirts decorating the landscape from the base of the Washington Monument all the way to the edge of Constitution Gardens, and 200,000 girls, women and many good men singing “I Want to Be a Girl Scout” at the top of their lungs as if that were the coolest thing to be doing ever. This was the scene on Saturday at the Girl Scout Singalong on the Mall — an incredible sea of sheer wholesome goodness, great fun, mellow lingering, and songs that keep running over and over in your head long after the stage came down.
95 years ago, Juliette Gordon Low started “something for the girls” in Savannah, and the rest has been a century of remarkable history and future accomplishments. Millions of girls and women claim sisterhood through the Girl Scouts, and Saturday’s Singalong on the Mall, a gigantic birthday party for this remarkable organization, revealed why the Girl Scouts remain the premier organizations for girls and women in the world: there is absolutely nothing pretentious about this organization — every single girl is accepted for who she is at whatever stage of development she joins, even if she’s on the far side of 50 and can’t hold a tune!
In an era when the role models for girls seem to be the hugely dysfunctional (Paris, Lindsay) or nearly impossibly powerful (Hillary, Condi), the Girl Scouts are real life. Troop leaders are moms and teachers, staff leaders are deeply devoted to the healthy development of the girls in their councils. Last weekend, thousands traveled from all over the country to do this one simply fun thing: have a picnic on the Mall and sing your hearts out. What a refreshing antidote to our contemporary culture’s obsession with manufactured entertainment!
Unfortunately, the Washington Post’s story today on the Singalong was needlessly snarky, making fun of the coveted Gold Award with an ill-informed (and sexist!) reference to the Boy Scouts top award, and implying that older Girl Scouts are not cool — how absurd! Had the Post reporter done a little homework, she would have learned that Gold Awards are held in high esteem by some very important audiences — colleges and universities, among others, such as Trinity where a Gold Award snags a scholarship worth $20,000 over a four year period (Trinity awards Girl Scout Scholarships to all Girl Scouts, and Silver and Gold Award scholarships earn extra premiums!).
The Post also failed to mention the Mother of the Singalong: Jan Verhage, executive director of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, the largest Girl Scout council in the nation. Jan is one of the most brilliant organizational leaders I know, endlessly inventive, totally selfless, creative beyond anyone else’s ability to imagine new things. She invented the Singalong on the Mall a decade ago. She also invented Camp CEO, the smartest method imaginable for getting women business executives involved with girls while also becoming committed to the Girl Scouts for life. Jan continuously re-invents the remarkably effective educational programs of Girl Scouting while building a fabulous business model to boot. Talk about a great role model for the girls! (That’s Jan in the group photo of women above, second from the right, scolding me for taking her picture! She’d rather just have all photos of the girls…. Congratulations, Jan, on another great success!!)
To see more photos of the singalong visit the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital.
I’ve also posted some of my photos here (password: rigabamboo)
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