When I went to bed on the first night of Boys State, I thought I had made the worst mistake of my life. Why in the world were we marching from place to place? Why did we have to wear an ugly shirt tucked into a pair of jeans? Why did we have to follow the orders of a bunch of strange old guys reliving their glory days?
I quickly figured out why. You can’t skip class, sleep in late, or simply go home at Boys State. You are accountable to your city. A missing spot in the marching formation breaks the unity of the group, it throws everyone off. When you go somewhere, you go as a unit. Not only is this the quickest way to get from point A to point B, its the quickest way to make friends. Thrown into a group of unfamiliar guys, you have to become a leader, a teammate, and a friend in order for things to work.
Perhaps the most important and peculiar aspect of Boys State is the infusion of various personalities into a forty-man unit, forced to work together to make laws, elect officials, and stay out of trouble. While for most, the latter of the three is the most difficult, the cities normally do the first two with steadfast resolution. Trouble, on the other hand, is inevitable.
The ugly uniforms are not some strange attempt at forced conformity. Instead they preach unity. Let me make it clear that there was no conformity in our city. In fact, there could not have been more polar opposites amongst our group. There were rule abiders and rule breakers, just as you might find in a real society or in a real government.
Lastly, the old men in goofy hats. Forgive me, these men aren’t weird or purposeless or past their time. No, these men are our heroes. When called to duty at young ages, they raised their hands. When asked to step to the front line in battle, they leaped. When greeted with the opportunity to give back to America’s youth, they far surpassed any standard. They formed and have carried out the American Legion and Boys State for over three quarters of a century. They exhibit patriotism in the greatest sense of the word. Do not take them for granted. Learn from them, and they will shape your lifetime.
To conclude, I have to say that I wouldn’t trade my experience at Boys State for a million dollars. Yes, it was rough at first. Yes, I didn’t understand most of it at the time. But, if you choose to be a Delegate, at the end you will understand, and you will never regret going or lose the friends you make there.