2010 VA Boys State - Puller City, Day One

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250px-Chesty_Puller "We’re surrounded. That simplifies our problem of getting to these people and killing them." — Chesty Puller, November 1950, during Chosin Reservoir campaign. Each year I spend a week as a counselor at Virginia's Boys State. It's an incredibly rewarding time for me, being able to meet the brightest rising seniors in the state, and try to pass on some knowledge about the way state government is set up and administered. It's also horrifically exhausting, and I generally need a week to recover. Originally started by the Department of Illinois American Legion, Boys State was set up to counter the Nazi Youth Camps that were popping up here and there. Rather than indoctrinate youth into the glory and splendor of Fascistic thinking though, the Boys State programs operated from a premise that freedom and patriotism, framed by our founding documents, would secure for another generation the ideals we held sacred. The Virginia Department of The American Legion followed suit in 1939 when it held its first Boys State. As the Boys State of Virginia website makes clear, the objectives are to:
To develop civic leadership and pride in American Citizenship. To arouse a keen interest in the detailed study of our government. To develop in the citizens a determination to maintain our form of government, primarily by bringing them to the realization of how great it is to be an American. To inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the Community, State and Nation.
Citizens learn the political process through the election process for the offices of the mythical 51st state. Each delegate is assigned to a political party which has no philosophy or platform until the delegates develop one. Delegates use the basic laws and procedures of the State of Virginia as a guide for their week. Speakers from all levels of government provide valuable lessons for the delegates. A highly qualified staff provides guidance and leadership.
So there are the basics for those that don't know the program. This year there are roughly 750 "citizens" of Boys State divided into 16 cities, each named after a notable Virginia military legend: Bradley, Burke, Eisenhower, Henry, Jackson, James, Lee, MacArthur, Marshall, Maury, Nimitz, Patton, Pershing, Stuart, Washington, and my city, Puller. And each citizen of the city falls into either the Nationalist or Federalist Party. I have 51 kids here, 26 Federalists and 25 Nationalists. They arrived yesterday at noon, and we worked until roughly midnight last night. This morning they were all back up at 7 am, had breakfast, and as I type this they are sitting here listening to the non-sectarian religious service that begins each day. Through the course of the week the boys will exactly replicate the Commonwealth of Virginia, from the city level up. In addition to all the political activities that will go on (which I will discuss in a minute) there are also other activities like Parliamentary Procedure class, Better Speaking, Moot Court, CPR certification and other activities. Also, there are sports: Basketball, Flag Football, Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball, and Soccer. The overall goal for an individual is to get elected to some office. At the City level there is a Sheriff (who ensures the rooms are cleaned, that everyone is on time etc), a Mayor (who handles internal city matters), an Athletic Director (who ensures that the teams make it where they need to be) and a few other ancillary positions. Additionally, each city will elect 5 members for the House of Delegates, and 2 for the Boys State Senate. Later on the political parties will meet and elect a city party Chairman, and prepare for the conventions that will come later in the week. The overall collective goal of a city is to win the coveted "Best City" title which is figured out by a complicated mathematical model that I haven't quite figured out, despite spending 3 days looking at it last year when I lost Best City by 2 points. Anyway, points are awarded or subtracted for a variety of things, from arriving on time in the proper uniforms to the daily room inspections. Each of the sporting events and academic type activities have points associated with it, including being named the outstanding public speaker. And of course, getting elected to certain positions at the state level garners points. Some of those State Level positions include Governor, Lt Governor, Attorney General, Supreme Court Justices, Speaker of the House of Delegates, Senate Majority Leader etc etc etc. There are a lot of positions, and each is hotly contested. It's odd here at times. When I graduated college the dean of cadets informed me that I was the worst cadet he ever let graduate. These kids will never hear that said about them. Just to get here they had to beat out other kids in their high schools to get selected. Some of the kids here have never lost at anything. I went through some applications for scholarships last night and every kid was "outstanding" had the group not have been so self-selecting. I have Eagle Scouts who don't mention it because so many others are the same. I have Championship athletes, guys who lead their JROTC units, I even have one kid who is the Junior Bassmaster Fishing champion for Virginia. I don't even know what that means, but that was one award he had. All of them have received awards beyond anything that I ever could have aspired to. Last night was mostly getting rosters ready, and figuring out who was going to do what. We elected an Athletic Director, and an assistant to him. They chose wisely, as the young man appears to be very organized, the trait most needed in that position. We elected a Chaplain, who will begin each of our city deliberations with a benediction. I had 4 positions for Moot Court available, and I had 14 kids who wanted to do it. I informed them that doing Moot Court meant no sports, and your free time would be shot, that they would be reading laws and preparing arguments constantly. Not a one sat back down, all 14 wanted to do it. We chose the 4 best, and this afternoon they will be going to be trained by local members of the Virginia Bar Association on how to argue the case, with some as the prosecution and some as the defense attorneys. They will start arguing city to city tomorrow, and proceed on. We even have access to a mock court room at the Liberty University School of Law, and local judges who will be deciding the cases. I can't begin to describe how incredible it is, so I am hoping I can get some video to share with you. The most important thing we did last night (from the point of view of a tired counselor) was to elect out City Sheriff. He's a hulking brute of a young man who almost lit me up when he saw the destruction which is my room before realizing I was a counselor. I told him to have everyone up at 7 and moving. At 7 I came out and everyone was already showered and ready to go. Further, I haven't had any complaints at all. That's what you want in a Sheriff, just enough of a hard hand to relieve me of the task, and soft enough that he isn't tipping over bunks and setting rabid dogs on the lazy and (morning) infirmed. Today, after this service, the cities will break up into 5 groups where they will then talk to state Delegates and a State Senator. The State Delegate that Puller will be meeting with is retired Colonel and Republican State Delegate from Woodbridge, VA, Richard L. Anderson.
Posted in Uncategorized, the burner | 2 comments
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I was a delegate to Boys State in 1972, and it was the highlight of my year. I would encourage anyone with a young man of proper age to apply, the program is that good, regardless of which state you attend in.

Thanks for doing this, man. I envy you.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.