Stephen McKnight recently returned from the 23rd World Scout Jamboree in Kirarahame, Japan.
McKnight, a south Charlotte resident and son of Beth McKnight and the late U.S. District Judge H. Brent McKnight, is a senior at Covenant Day School.
The 18-year-old Eagle Scout with Silver Palm credits is a member of Troop 9 in Matthews.
In Japan, he was assigned to serve in one of the 12 sub camps. Approximately 25,000 scouts, 5,000 adult leaders and 6,000 members from 147 countries attended the Jamboree.
“I was working as an adult among other adults. I discovered the importance of holding myself to a Christ-like standard, no matter what the circumstance,” McKnight said. “I discovered the power of a smile in the face of disunity or disrespect.”
McKnight said there were 2,200 people in Jakuchi, McKnight’s sub camp.
“My primary job was serving food for the troops. ... We had to get up at 4 a.m. to serve breakfast and a bag lunch. I helped out at a variety of things between the two meals, such as helping people with directions, cleaning bathrooms and mediating conflicts that sometimes arose between contingents.
He said the theme of the Jamboree was “WA,” which symbolizes a spirit of peace and unity in Japanese.
Each night, contingents put on brief shows about their culture. There were also outside performers and a day when both Prime Minister Shinzo and Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan came to speak.
Participating scouts rotated between different programs each day, including the city of science, where scouts could see developing sciences at work; community services, an opportunity to learn about Japanese life and environment; and the global development village.
They also learned about the Hiroshima Peace Program and the Crossroad of Culture. Scouts enjoyed exploring nature and water activities at the beach and off site.
“I really enjoyed meeting people from so many different countries and cultures, including one of the founders of Scouting in Russia, who was also a friend of the late Russian political figure Boris Nemtsov,” McKnight said. “Other people I came to think of as friends were from Cambodia, Sweden, Papua (New Guinea), Timor Leste (Afghanistan), United Kingdom, Egypt, Pakistan and other people from the U.S.”
“My tent mate was from Texas. We all went to the staff restaurant, served by IST and caterers. We were served a lot of rice and noodles and soup with meat. I enjoyed eating with chopsticks and purchased a metal pair to bring home.”
When asked what impact uniting Scouts from all over the world has on world peace, McKnight said, “It brings hope. For example, it meant a lot to me when, at the end of the Jamboree, a man from Afghanistan came over and gave me a hug.”
McKnight’s mother flew to Japan with him. Together they visited Tokyo, Fujikawaguchiko, Kyoto and Hiroshima.
Aug. 6 was the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima. The epicenter where the bomb dropped is now a Peace Memorial Park with memorials to those who died and a museum educating visitors about the bombing.
“It was amazing to think that our two countries, now allies, were so bitterly at war 70 years ago,” McKnight said. “My grandfather fought in the Pacific theater during World War II and here I was visiting the country, against whom he fought.”
June Noe is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.