I just got home today a few hours ago from American Legion Jersey Boys' State at Rider University. For those of you who don't know what that is, let me explain. The American Legion was formed many decades ago and has been holding Boys' State events for 50+ years (they also have Girls' State the week after Boys' State). The point behind this event is to gather the best of the best of a state's students and then educate them through assemblies, hands-on activities, seminars, group work, political debates, and many other methods about how our government works and what makes the United States the best country in the world. Let me just say that as a graduate of the ALJBS program, it certainly works. I have to say that I just finished spending what is probably going to be the best [pre-college] week of my life. This year, around 850 students attended the program in New Jersey, and I was lucky enough to be one of 2 students from my area to go. While the first two days weren't too good, the remaining four days were a blast. Nearly everyone in my "city" (which is pretty much the dorm you live in for the week) was very cool and we had a lot of fun. To be honest, I'm a bit disappointed that I won't be going back to see the same people in the same circumstance ever again. Sure, I like being home, but I was having such a good time (especially in the last 2 days) that I would probably rather spend more of my summer there than coming back home so soon (yeah, I'm crazy). And beyond that, I learned a lot of valuable life lessons. From the veterans who helped to run the event (many of whom gave excellent speeches that moved us all) to the counselors who gave us each one-on-one time and tried to help us accomplish something and learn about life. What was probably the most important speech I saw at the entire event was one made by a man who actually was in Pearl Harbor when it was attacked. He explained in detail what his life was like at the time, what happened that day, and how he reacted to it. Afterwards, he received a standing ovation from the large crowd of teens, which shows me that there are some respectable youth in the country. I even heard from one of my counselors that one of the veterans was crying from the sheer happiness that the kids who were attending the program were being so respectful and understanding to the veterans, which is exactly what I think we (the attendees) were trying to be. The program focuses VERY strongly on how government works, so we had to elect people to take on the roles of mayors, assemblymen, town councilmen, and everything else all the way up to the governor and two senators (the two senators will be attending Boys' Nation in Washington, D.C., and get a chance to meet the current president). I feel the program was very effective for me and I know understand much more vividly how everything from the local level of government snowballs into what becomes the national level. If anyone out there is a member of the American Legion, thank you for supporting what I consider to be a wonderful program. I fully hope to be chosen to attend next year as a counselor so that I can help the program continue to exist and affect our youth as it has affected me.