Tim Scott’s positive lesson

Vice President Joe Biden administers the ceremonial Senate oath to Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., during a ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. Scott's mother Frances Scott holds the bible. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Young people learn by example. And in the grand realm of elevating examples, it’s hard to beat Tim Scott, who gave another inspiring lesson last week at the annual Palmetto Boys State meeting in Anderson.

After all, Mr. Scott rose from humble circumstances and nearly dropping out of Stall High School to earning a degree from Baptist College (now Charleston Southern University), owning an insurance business and being elected to Charleston County Council, the S.C. House, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.

He told more than 1,100 Boys State delegates at Anderson University, “I may be the only United States senator who failed civics in high school,” explaining, “I did not have the passion and curiosity for success. I was drifting.”

Then young Tim Scott stopped drifting, thanks to the timely help of family, friends and his mentor John Moniz, who hired him to work at his Chick-fil-A in North Charleston. Soon, his grades — and opportunities — were steeply ascending.

One of his upward steps was participation in the 1982 Palmetto Boys State meeting at The Citadel. Recalling that enlightening experience, Mr. Scott told last week’s audience:

“This place, Palmetto Boys State, it develops leaders. In a week, you have so many ideas. You learn how to lead and how to work as a team.”

Palmetto Boys State divides groups of high school seniors into mock governing situations based on the General Assembly format. As the Independent-Mail reported: “They run for office, draft legislation and actually present the legislation to leadership in Columbia.”

The students, nominated by their schools and selected by local American Legion chapters, also occasionally get a chance to put prominent guests on the spot. When one of them asked Mr. Scott if he would ever run for the White House, the senator replied with a laugh: “I am going to run for president of my homeowners association one day.”

Yet Mr. Scott, in response to another student’s question, did say he would run for re-election next year.

While Mr. Scott has attracted national attention for, among other accomplishments, becoming the first black U.S. senator from the South since the 19th century, he knows the agony of defeat. For instance, he lost a 1996 state Senate race to then-incumbent Robert Ford by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

But as Sen. Scott told the Boys State members:

“Every time I have lost, it has given me the fuel to win. What have you already learned here? If at first you don’t succeed, you try, try again. You have to get back up.”

And adults who want to help young folks succeed have to get the right messages through to them.

Sen. Scott has received, and delivered, positive results from both sides of that equation.