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Home Law My Experiences at the American Legion Boys State Program (June 2011)

My Experiences at the American Legion Boys State Program (June 2011)

There are some moments in life that are the result of hard work and determination. One such moment in my life was getting the opportunity to attend the New Jersey Boys State program during the early summer of 2011. There was never a more important and prestigious program that I was able to attend before it. It was the culmination of many long and arduous years of hard work and determination that finally paid off towards my favor. Most importantly, attending Boys State helped me reach the conclusion that the political and law fields are where I want to seek a career for myself after college graduation.

The Boys State Programs is run by the American Legion and is a hands-on mock government program that is meant to educate each participant about how the political process works. Roughly 900 delegates are selected from towns all across New Jersey and meet for a week at Rider University. The delegates are then divided up into 16 cities which make up several counties. The residents in each city elect their representatives and pass laws relating to the problems facing the city. The delegates also elect state officials such as the governor, lieutenant governor, and two senators. Throughout the week, there are many other activities for the delegates to take part in such as sports, band practice and seminars relating to several careers.

I was utterly surprised when I was selected. My history teacher and my guidance counselor felt that I was an excellent candidate for Boys State due to my strong academic performance and strong interest in history and politics. My parents were thrilled at my selection and felt I deserved it due to the fact that my academic performance had improved markedly so during my time in High School. Upon hearing the news about me being selected, my family began preparing for me to attend it as soon as possible with the utmost speed.

Despite my initial excitement towards attending, I had a feeling of anxiety towards the idea of having to stay away from home for a week at an unfamiliar place. When I attended the orientation for Boys State, I was surprised to see that several of my classmates were attending it as well. Seeing them helped assuage me from some of my anxiety towards attending the program. Despite the fact that I felt less anxious about staying away from home, the prospects regarding meeting new people still made me feel relatively uneasy. The day that I embarked on my journey to Rider University approached fast and I felt ready to go. I met up with my counselor and fellow delegates at the local American Legion post and then proceeded with them on a bus to the university.

While I was on the bus traveling to Rider University, I began to hear an extremely loud and persistent thud coming from the motor of the bus. It sounded almost like a knocking sound when listened to closely. At first, I thought the noise was nothing major and just a minor annoyance, but it did not stop and instead grew louder and louder as the trip progressed. My fellow delegates and I began to fear that the bus was going to break down in the middle of the road. Ultimately, the bus driver pulled over to check out what damage had occurred. Upon his further inspection, it appeared that the motor of the bus was seized and could not run. The bus breaking down could not have come at a worse time, as it was hot enough outside to boil water along the road and we had to be at the campus within the next hour. My anxiety level increased dramatically and I feared the worse. After the dramatic breakdown of the bus, a more reliable one was swiftly brought in and we made it to the campus in a short amount of time.

When we were divided up into our respective cities, my anxiety began to drop, as I found out that I shared several interests with my fellow delegates. One person had a huge interest in politics and history just like me while another person was also interested in record collecting like me. Another delegate from my city even started a yhatzee club in his school and taught me and several other people how to play it. In addition, many of my fellow delegates came from diverse backgrounds all throughout the state. I then realized that there were people that shared the same interests as me and that it is not that hard getting to know new people who come from much more diverse and varied backgrounds than the ones I am accustomed to from my previous experiences.

The dorm room that I was assigned was clean and orderly for the most part, but the furniture in it, especially the bed that I had to sleep on, was dilapidated and worn down from decades of use. In addition, the food that was served to us was second-rate in quality, especially the food served to us for breakfast and dinner. After getting settled in our dorms and having our first meal there, our cities counselor called us into a meeting to discuss how the political aspects of Boys State worked. After the meeting, our city had its first election for the mayor of it. I decided to run for mayor along with four other people. I tried to run an energetic campaign that focused on the needs of my city and how to find practical and forward-thinking solutions for the issues that it faced. Despite my persistent efforts, I lost the election, but received the second largest amount of votes out of all the candidates. I ultimately was appointed as the city public works administrator by the person who won the mayoral election. Although I lost the election, I gained a great insight into how to run a campaign and how local politics works.

There were several current political leaders that spoke to us at the seminars. The first person that spoke to us was Congressman Leonard Lance, who spoke in well-expressed terms about his experiences attending Boys State nearly 40 years earlier. Moreover, former Bush Administration Press Secretary Ari Fleischer spoke at a later assembly about what path to take when getting started in politics. The most noteworthy person to speak to us was Governor Chris Christie, who had a question and answer period in which any delegate could as him a question. I was unable to ask him anything due to the fact that several hundred delegates formed a line to talk to him. Although I was not able to ask him a question, seeing Governor Christie was inspiring to me because I knew that he came from a relatively average background and was able to succeed in politics.

Another fun experience at Boys State occurred on the second day. After we had lunch, our counselor divided up our city into two teams for a dodge ball game. The game quickly became very intense and exciting, although several participants were resistant to playing it at first. The game got very intense at time, but luckily no one walked away with any serious wounds once it ended. After the epic game was over, we learned that the team that won it would get an award for it at the graduation ceremony. My team won it, so I was thrilled to get the award at the graduation ceremony.

On the last day of Boys State, a picnic was held for all the delegates and their families before the main graduation ceremony from the program. When my parents came to the picnic, they were very proud that I was able to attend such a program and noticed that I had grown as a person during my short time there. At the graduation assembly, current U.S. Senator Robert Menendez spoke to the delegates about his experiences attending Boys State and how it changed him as a person. During the graduation ceremony, I felt a sense of deep pride and cheerfulness in what I was able to accomplish.

After I had packed up my bags, I felt a feeling of sadness as I left my city and my delegates. I had grown as a person and met many new and diverse people that I could build a lasting friendship with. I also had a feeling of satisfaction knowing that I was able to take part in such a great and educational program. Most importantly, I realized that a career in politics is what I might want to pursue in the future.

Matthew Rosehttp://ourpolitics.net
Matt studies and analyzes politics at all levels. He is the creator of OurPolitics.net, a scholarly resource exploring political trends, political theory, political economy, philosophy, and more. He hopes that his articles can encourage more people to gain knowledge about politics and understand the impact that public policy decisions have on their lives. Matt is also involved in the preservation of recorded sound through IASA International Bibliography of Discographies, and is an avid record collector.


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