Does the name Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben ring a bell? Probably not, since he is often put in the back of our history books. He served as inspector general and major general of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He is recognized for teaching that army the essentials of military drill and discipline, thus helping the United States gain victory over the British.

What about Lieutenant Colonel T.E. Lawrence? Lawrence of Arabia, with his knowledge of the culture and people, helped create a revolt within Arab regions against the Ottoman Turks that led to the fall of that empire. More recently, we have all heard of Tim Cook. As CEO of Apple, his leadership has driven that company to be the most profitable in the world.

What do all these plus many more great leaders have in common? They were, or are, gay.

Recently, Robert M. Gates, the current president of the Boy Scouts of America and former director of the CIA, called for an end to the ban on gay adult leaders within the organization. The backlash over this announcement has been predictably polarized. As a parent myself, I worry about the exposure that my son gets from people he meets. As a former Navy SEAL and owner of a security company, I am very aware of the different dangers there are in this world.

When it comes to the influence gay scout leaders will have on children, I am reminded of a lady who once spoke to us. “I am a survivor of a Jewish concentration camp,” the old women said. The elementary school library had a reading pit located in its center. The woman stood above the group of children, making sure she made eye contact with all of us. We learned she had smuggled messages from the outside world in a test tube that would be inserted into her vagina and covered with iodine to give the appearance of menstruation in the event of a strip search. Aside from being a war hero, that woman did something remarkable. She gave us insight into something we knew nothing about. She enriched our lives.

Meeting the holocaust survivor was a perspective-changing moment, and that was it. It didn’t make me want to give up my personal beliefs and convert to Judaism. On the same grounds, if we had the opportunity to meet somebody who was transgender, it would have only changed my perspective and not my gender identity. These things are not contagious.

“A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” I remember this Scout law from my brief time in the Cub Scouts. Reverence is an important part of that law. Respecting other religions, races, genders, and even sexual orientations.

At this this point, Mr. Gates’ statement is just that—a statement. Granted it’s a step in the right direction, but there is still a long road to travel. The Boy Scouts of America have an amazing opportunity to be a part of the elimination of labels for an entire generation of young people. They won’t be gay or straight, they will just be Scouts. They can set an example for similar organizations like the Christian-based Awana program. In doing so, the focus will shift from people’s differences to their commonalities.