The 98 senators spent their final morning of Boys Nation in the senate to debate on legislation and vote on resolutions. Alexander Lux from West Allis, Wis., was proud to see his resolution on flag desecration be the first debate on the senate floor.
"This resolution states that the U.S. flag be recognized as a national symbol of pride and honor and thus disparages the destruction of the flag," Lux said. "I know there are contentious ideas about the burning of the flag right now, but my resolution firmly states that Congress would support the choice to not burn the flag."
Lux initially had 85 co-sponsors in favor of his resolution, but when it came time for each state to vote, the resolution earned the support of all 49 states present and passed with a standing ovation.
"We wake up every morning, and we have the freedom to say what we want and freedom of the press," Lux said. "It's an amazing honor to recognize that, and the flag is a symbol of the people who fought for our freedom. And they deserve the upmost respect."
Since Day 1 of Boys Nation, a total of 18 bills were signed into law and 10 were vetoed on the senate floor.
Following the closing senate session, the senators traveled a short distance to enjoy a moment they have been anxiously waiting for – a trip to the White House to meet President Obama. The young men roared with excitement when the president walked into the East Room of the White House, and they didn't let up, singing "Happy Birthday" to him.
After a few photo ops, each Boys Nation senator had an opportunity to shake President Obama's hand and even follow a trend initiated by Ian Goza from Little Rock, Ark. "I was the first person to give Obama a hug today," Goza said.
The hugs continued until the young men walked out onto the White House front lawn to wave goodbye to Obama as he boarded a Marine One helicopter.
"Meeting the president was an amazing experience that really crystallized everything we have done this week," said Storm Boris from Woodbridge, Conn. "Mr. Obama said it so well when he said that what we're doing at Boys Nation is what every American should be doing if they want to try to get a feel for America and put their own ideas into America."
The senators' enthusiasm carried over into their graduation banquet and ceremony, where they said their farewells. During graduation, each senator personally received his Boys Nation certificate, coin and pin from his respective section counselors. Also standing in line to pay recognition to the young men was Sons of The American Legion National Commander James Roberts III, who handed an SAL pin to the senators.
And on behalf of the SAL, Roberts presented a $1,000 scholarship to president pro-tem Neal Jeup from Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., and secretary of the senate Brandon Dale from Lafayette, La. Meanwhile, Joseph Caouette, chairman of the Legion's Americanism Commission, presented a $2,000 scholarship to president Jonathan Hess from Tuscaloosa, Ala., and vice president Joseph Aumuller from Libertyville, Ill.
For the past week, the 98 senators have been singing patriotic songs to everyone they have encountered. So American Legion Past National Commander Bob Turner didn't let the night end without singing. However, this time, he asked the young men to sing for themselves. And they did while waving American flags and embracing each other.
"This has been the best week of my life; it has just been amazing," said Dakota Johnson from Las Vegas. "My respect for The American Legion and all veterans around the country has grown immensely."
"I can see why they call this program a week that shapes a lifetime, but I don't think it's just our lifetime," said Nimit Jindal from Dover, N.J. "I think it's our generation and other generations to come. Talking to and sharing experiences with 97 of the best and brightest in the country, there is nothing like it."
"It is inspirational to see our generation working together," said Matthew Baughman from Manchester, Md. "Everyone thinks that our nation is becoming lethargic and not active, but this program gives me hope. And when my community finds out about Boys Nation and what we did, they are going to have hope again that our generation can be successful and make sure that our era is prosperous."