Think about the question, “Who is most important for the future of society?” While the answers may vary, the typical answer is, “the next generation” or “today’s children.” The American Legion is one group that takes the future very seriously by doing just that. For the past 79 years, the group, working with local VFWs, has influenced the lives of many young people with the Buckeye Boys State program.
Participants in this program go through a ruthless selection process as funding is limited to veterans and other supporters of the program who donate. Michael “Chance” Oyer, Gabe Seyfang, and Jared Murphy, courtesy clerks at the Washington Court House Kroger, were lucky enough to be selected as delegates to the 80th year of this convention. Members of the school’s faculty hand-picked the students for consideration. However, the selection process does not end there.
After being chosen, interview times are set up through the American Legion which has no shortage of open-ended questions. Among the questions asked were, “What do you think when images of people burning the American flag appear?” and “At Boys State, what would you do if you witnessed a crime being committed?” The purpose of these extensive questions is, again, to make sure sponsors’ money goes to a good cause.
So now to the real question; What is Boys State? It is an eight-day event where participants create their own mock government. Delegates are voted or placed into government jobs that are designed to represent a life-like community. For example, governors, treasurers, sheriffs, and judges are all included positions. A certain amount of Boys State money is allotted to each boy and, with that money, the person can buy things or, if he is feeling risky, purchase advertisement to supplement his run for candidacy!
During my time at Buckeye Boys State, I learned quite a few things. The very first thing they did was assign me a city and political party that I had to represent. Typically, there were 40 to 45 people in each city. Most would be extremely nervous when dumped into a group of people they do not know, but it was different in this case. Each of us had a level playing field because no people from my real-life city were allowed to be placed in the same Boys State city as me so that it would be this way (and the same applies for others).
So there I was with nobody I knew and a campaign to run. I came to Boys State wanting to be the county engineer, which meant that I would have to secure at least 51 percent of all four cities’ votes, but I realized that it would be harder than expected to reach all of them before voting in the general election on the third day. Because of this, I decided to not chance it and, instead, run for city councilman. The second day of Boys State I clinched, with little competition, my Federalist Party nominations for city councilman and platform delegate for the Federalist convention.
After the caucus, I had to quickly walk over to the convention where I then helped decide our party’s stances on important issues. The issue I chose was renewable energy. We argued for a solid hour about what we believed in and, eventually, came to the conclusion that its stance on the matter was unanimous and that was to convert our nation over to renewable energies such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric. Later that day, I began campaigning to get my name out to the city and try to convince its citizens that I was one of the best candidates for the position.
Day three was election day. We got up at our usual 6:15 a.m. and went to breakfast. Soon after, we went to the polling center and voted for the best candidate. The wait was unbearable. For about three hours I had to dread what would happen if I did not win. The image of what would happen actually was not that bad, though. People who lose their elections go to a job fair and one of the jobs for past years was being a deer whose sole job is running into people. However, my dreams of being the Boys State Deer were crushed as I won the election.
Day four through the final day I put down my antlers and picked up a briefcase as I headed to the city offices. My fellow city councilmen and I learned how to draft pieces of legislation and to conduct meetings by following Robert’s Rules of Order. To keep work ethic up, a reward system exists at BBS. Every night at the Stroh Center, which is a 1.2 mile walk from the dorms, the counselors, who graded each city’s performance that day, would award an elegant yellow flag to one of the cities of each county.
The programs held in The Stroh Center were amazing. To begin, the colors would be brought in by delegates in a military fashion. Then, the Boys State Band, which was made up of delegates, sat down to play the National Anthem which was followed by the pledge of allegiance. Many different things happened during the rest of the ceremonies. Each night, there would be a keynote speaker who had a moving story to tell. Of these, the most memorable was that of an Air Force member. He spoke of brave people who gave their lives in order to complete missions and ensure the survival of squad members.
I came away from BBS with a completely renewed sense of patriotism due to both learning about the government as well as the veterans who protect it. I learned so much about the government, in fact, that I now am going to make it a point for me to attend city council meetings.
The Buckeye Boys State program is put on by sponsors and volunteers. The counselors and evaluators take a week out of their lives just to give kids like me an experience they will never forget. They wake up before our 6:15 a.m. wake-up time and also go to bed after our 11 p.m. lights-out time. In addition to the volunteers, sponsors are needed to supply the program and also to feed the delegates three square meals a day. It takes $300 for each delegate to attend Buckeye Boys State and very passionate people to donate those funds.
Our local American Legion sent 16 delegates this year and is looking to send even more next year as the program is moving to Miami University. If you would like to donate, please contact Eddie Fisher at (740)-335-4345. If you would like to know more about my experiences at Buckeye Boys State, you can send me an email at [email protected] . Thank you for taking the time to read about this fantastic program!