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American Legion Boys' State


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6 replies to this topic

#1 of 7 Morgan Jolley

Morgan Jolley

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Posted June 20 2003 - 01:45 PM

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.

#2 of 7 Don Black

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Posted June 20 2003 - 03:08 PM

Well, while I applaud the American Legion for their attempt in fostering political interest among the high school crowd, I found the program itself to be a tad lackluster. The uniforms and gender specific limitations (Boy's State v. Girl's State) of the program are relics of an antiquated time and the knowledge being conveyed was nothing that a few months in a good high school debate program couldn't surpass.

Sure, the speakers were decent (governors, lt. governors, state police officials, etc.), but it seemed like a program designed as a blind tribute to state government rather than a true educational program.

This being said, if you can make it past Boy's State to Boy's Nation, then the experience you gain will be tremendous. Especially if you are able to turn that experience into an internship in the Senate/House itself (if you're local to DC). There's nothing like interning for a Senator your senior year (full HS credit) while the rest of your class is taking the standard crop of HS classes.

#3 of 7 Morgan Jolley

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Posted June 21 2003 - 03:22 PM

Quote:
The uniforms and gender specific limitations (Boy's State v. Girl's State) of the program are relics of an antiquated time and the knowledge being conveyed was nothing that a few months in a good high school debate program couldn't surpass
Actually, the reason for the uniforms (which is pretty much the shirt they give you and a nice pair of pants) was so that kids there for Boys' State wouldn't be confused for college kids (and thus, can't leave the campus or do things with the college kids, and will get in big trouble if caught). The reason for Boys'/Girls' State being separate is that girls ended up getting pregnant in the 70s from when both events took place at the same time (I'm serious about that, our counselor told us about it).
Quote:
the knowledge being conveyed was nothing that a few months in a good high school debate program couldn't surpass
I'm not so sure. A lot of the kids who won higher positions here were pretty smart and amazing speakers, but most of the kids here wouldn't be able to participate in a quality debate, letalone watch one and understand half of what was said, which is really sad considering a lot could have been accomplished and the attendees were the main limiting factor.
[/quote]
Sure, the speakers were decent (governors, lt. governors, state police officials, etc.), but it seemed like a program designed as a blind tribute to state government rather than a true educational program[/quote]
I agree, but it didn't come off so much as a propaganda-based program as it did come off as a program that paid respect to the veterans and what they were fighting for. The message I got was "these people fought and lost their lives, their friends, or their youths so that you could do what you're doing here right now and so that you could help lead the government that has continually proven to the best in the world." One of the veterans pointed out that America is the only place where 850 17-year old boys can come together to learn about how our government works and what makes it work so well, whereas right now in many other countries we would have already been taught at this age how to kill people and make bombs to fight civil wars.

And Don, what state did you attend from and in what year?

#4 of 7 Tony G

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Posted June 24 2003 - 08:29 AM

I went in Tennessee in 1978.

The thing I remember most is that we spent most of our time marching everywhere with a lot of old veterans in funny hats seeming to enjoy being military big-shots. The state government thing was there, but was overshadowed by the military part. I couldn't wait to leave. I went to Junior Achievement camp a couple of weeks later, then for two months at a big university at a National Science Foundation program, so it wasn't a homesickness thing.

I was told that Tennessee's Boy's State was among the most military, and that may be a thing of the past, but that's what I remember about it.

#5 of 7 Justin Lane

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Posted June 24 2003 - 09:24 AM

Glad to hear you had a great time at NJ Boy's State. I also attended back in 1998 at Rider college and had a great time of it. Your post sparked some great memories from the week spent there.

Quote:
The uniforms and gender specific limitations (Boy's State v. Girl's State) of the program are relics of an antiquated time and the knowledge being conveyed was nothing that a few months in a good high school debate program couldn't surpass.


I couldn't disagree more. I have never seen a high school program remotely similar to the experience gained at Boy's state. If all you got from the program was a high school debate comparison, it seems like wherever you attended did a bad job or you did not grasp the spirit of the week or maybe our outlooks on the value of the program are just different.

The program was a great lesson on human interaction, and the way individuals work within the political process. I also got a lot from the speakers including the governor of NJ and the opponent she defeated who is now the governor, as well as various CEO's and executives. The counselors were also a wealth of knowledge, and truly a major reason our country is where it is today. I recommend anyone who has the opportunity to attend this program to give it a very serious look.

By the way Morgan, was there an old Legionnaire still there who could name the location of every town in NJ? This guy cracked me up in that he knew every town and the directions to get there.

J

#6 of 7 Morgan Jolley

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Posted June 24 2003 - 04:50 PM

Quote:
By the way Morgan, was there an old Legionnaire still there who could name the location of every town in NJ? This guy cracked me up in that he knew every town and the directions to get there
Oh yeah. That guy was very cool. He knew stuff about historical landmarks in my town that I didn't even know about. I talked with him after I handed in my (extremely incomplete) Boys' Nation Senator petition and he was very nice.

BTW, you attended the same year as one of my counselors this year, Adam Polhemus. This was his 5th year as a counselor and he got an award of some kind (like a pin or something) for it.

And I agree with you that the whole thing was an excercise in human interactions and politics. I did learn a lot about how people perceive eachother an how they perceive others perceiving themselves. For instance, there was one kid who would always hang out with the "cool" kids in our city, but when he walked away, they would do nothing but talk about how much he annoyed them. The whole situation was VERY interesting, especially given everyone's personalities.

#7 of 7 Steve Clark

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Posted June 25 2003 - 02:00 AM

When I went to Boys State in 1975 at Ohio University (Athens) there was a sex scandal between Boys State participants and female college students who stayed for the summer and were working for the event. It resulted in at least one high ranking Boys Stater (might even had been the one elected President) resigning his position and being sent home. So yes, I did learn about government, that sex and politics go hand in hand Posted Image

It was definitely a good experience as far as meeting other people from all areas of the state. However the whole event seemed rushed and hurried as you only had one week to run for office, hold elections and govern.


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