Herbert Hoover: A Boy's Bill of Rights

Stephen Ashton 1 Comment

There are two jobs for American boys today. One is being a boy. The other is growing up to be a man. Both jobs are important. Both are packed with excitement, great undertakings, and high adventure.

Together with his sister, the boy is our most precious possession. But he presents not only joys and hopes, but also paradoxes. He strains our nerves, yet he is a complex of cells teeming with affection. He is a periodic nuisance, yet he is a joy forever. He is a part-time incarnation of destruction, yet he radiates sunlight to the entire world. He gives evidence of being the child of iniquity, yet he makes a great nation. He is filled with curiosity as to every mortal thing, he is an illuminated interrogation point, yet he is the most entertaining animal that is. He is endowed with a dynamic energy and an impelling desire to take exercise on all occasions. His primary instinct is to hunt in a pack and that multiplies his devices. He is a complete self-starter, and therefore wisdom in dealing with him consists mostly in what to do with him next. The whole world is new to him. Therefore his should be a life of adventure, of discovery, of great undertakings. He must spend much time, if he is to expand, in the land of make-believe.

It is his privilege to have been born in America. Here boys live under a democracy where they have more opportunity of becoming a mayor or a policeman or an editor or even a banker than in any other country. So they have some privileges. The Constitution provides him with the inalienable right of liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are not so much concerned at the moment with his liberties as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights as we are with his processes for the pursuit of happiness. He will find the tragedies of both liberty and happiness when he becomes a taxpayer. He and his pack can go on this hunt for happiness either constructively or destructively.

Our job is to make a place where they can let off steam in such a way as to give them constructive joy. We must find their occupational bent so they can start right in life. And we must supplement the moral training of the family and of the church in that other great high school of morals—that is, adventure. Otherwise they wilt like wild flowers. And otherwise also they go in for destructive joy. Boldness, independence, the pioneer spirit, the courage to take chances--these must not be suppressed, but they must be directed to constructive joy.

A Boy's Bill of Rights

Because boys must grow up into the land of realities, I think there should be a special Bill of Rights for boys:

  1. Like everyone else, a boy has a right to the pursuit of happiness.
  2. He has the right to the kind of play that will stretch his imagination, tax his ingenuity, sharpen his wits, challenge his prowess and keep his self-starter going.
  3. He has the right to the satisfaction of that thirst to explore the world around him, every bit of which is new to him, and to explore the land of make-believe at will.
  4. He has the right to affection and friendship.
  5. He has the right to the sense of security in belonging to some group. He is by nature gregarious, and the cultivation of that instinct will bring him many joys and helps in life.
  6. He has the right to health protections that will make him an inch taller than his dad.
  7. He has the right to education and training that amplifies his own natural bents and will fit him into a job he likes when he becomes a man.
  8. He has a right to a chance in getting a job.

These are the rights of boys and it’s up to us, as adults, to see that they have them. The glory of the nation rests in the character of her men. And character comes from boyhood. Thus every boy is a challenge to his elders. It is for them that we must win the war – it is for them that we must make a just and lasting peace. For the world of tomorrow, about which all of us are dreaming and planning, will be carried forward by the boys of today.

- Herbert Hoover

Start a Troop    Find a Troop

The article above was compiled and edited from the following sources:

Addresses Upon the American Road by Herbert Hoover 1933-1938 - The Business of Boys and Building Boys for America

Enchanted World by Matthew Schaefer

About the Author
Stephen Ashton

Stephen Ashton

Stephen Ashton is the National Director of Marketing for Trail Life USA and serves as an adjunct professor at Clarks Summit University and Anchor Christian University. Prior to his work at Trail Life, he spent 15 years working with at-risk youth in residential therapeutic wilderness programs and served as the Vice-President of the Wilderness Road Therapeutic Camping Association. An author and a speaker, he has written for journals and published a book chronicling the foundations of therapeutic camping. He frequently speaks on the topics of fatherhood, biblical masculinity, outdoor education, and wilderness therapy. Stephen lives in South Carolina with his wife and 4 sons.

Share this Post