National Press Club

Girl Scouts leader says organization will answer Bishops' questions

May 30, 2012 | By Justin Duckham | justin@talkradionews.com

Girl Scouts chief executive officer Anna Maria Chávez (second from right) is pictured with (l to r) Debra Silimeo, Speakers Committee member who organized the luncheon; NPC President Theresa Werner; and Lidia Soto-Harmon, CEO of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital.

Girl Scouts chief executive officer Anna Maria Chávez (second from right) is pictured with (l to r) Debra Silimeo, Speakers Committee member who organized the luncheon; NPC President Theresa Werner; and Lidia Soto-Harmon, CEO of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

The chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of America, Anna Maria Chávez, said the century-old organization is working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to address any concerns.

“We’re working with the Conference of Bishops to answer some questions they have,” Chávez said during a luncheon Wednesday. “We do not take positions on some of these issues that we’re being alleged to take positions on.”

Some social conservatives have charged that the Girl Scouts violate Catholic teachings, and those complaints have prompted the Bishops to look at the organization, which has ties to many churches and is led by a Catholic, Chávez noted.

Chávez said that the organization’s history of inclusiveness has given rise to “myths and misconceptions,” including persistent, incorrect reports linking the organization to Planned Parenthood, which provides health services and birth control to women as well as offering abortions. Such unsubstantiated rumors are being fueled by social media, she said.

She said the Girl Scouts are focused solely on leadership development and giving young women a leg up in life.

“We’ve found that if you compare Girl Scout alumni to non-alumni, they outperformed in nearly every single measurement,” Chávez said. “They were making more money each they, they had a higher educational attainment than non-alums, they were happier and they were contributing to their community.”

To make her case, Chavez pointed to Girl Scout alumni such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Given the organization’s track record, it’s quite likely that the first female president will have been a Girl Scout, she said.

A good portion of Wednesday’s luncheon focused on the organization’s more iconic hallmark: their cookies.

“It is the largest entrepreneurial program for girls in the country,” Chávez said. “I meet women in the highest positions of corporate life and government and the first thing they’ll tell me is that ‘I learned my business skills making the pitch, selling the Girl Scout cookies.’”

Club President Theresa Werner, one of many Girl Scout alumni at the head table, was quick to tell Chavez that she was the top cookie seller in her troop.

As for the CEO’s favorite cookie, Chávez joked that she used to dodge the question by claiming that she liked them all equally. However, at the recommendation of her husband, she says she has just recently begun to give an honest answer.

“Yes, in front of everybody, my favorite cookie is the Samoa,” Chávez said to applause for the caramel and chocolate treat.

Chávez’ appearance at the club coincided with the Girl Scouts' 100 year anniversary. In honor of the milestone, wax museum Madame Toussad’s placed a life-life sculpture of the organization’s founder, Juliette Gordon Low, in the Club’s ballroom.