In the eight years since Jordi Saunders moved to Indiana from England, he's had plenty of experiences with Americana. Throughout the next week, he'll have perhaps his most intimate encounter with American culture as he serves as president pro tempore to the 67th session of Boys Nation.
Saunders, a Federalist senator from Indiana, was elected to the position on Saturday night. He was joined by Cortez Thomas, a Nationalist senator from Mississippi, who was elected secretary of senate shortly after Saunders was voted in as president pro temp.
"It's so amazing," Saunders said. "I've had a million people come up and shake my hand, and I've already forgotten most of them. I've just made a million friends today and met people I'm going to be with for the rest of my life."
Thomas beamed with similar enthusiasm, even though he hails from the United States and has some familiarity with American government, having served as his senior class president and worked in his mayor's office in Clarksdale, Miss.
"I'm very excited. My week has already been awesome, and it's only been two days," Thomas said.
Saunders' trip across the pond began eight years ago when the branch of the company his father worked for in England closed. His family was set to be transferred to either the company's location in California or LaPorte, Ind. "We were the lucky ones who got to move to Indiana instead of California," he said.
In the years since his move, Saunders has embraced the American experience, having joined the "congress" portion of his high school's speech and debate team. He's also spent time studying American government – an interest that ultimately led him to become the first student from his high school to qualify for Boys Nation.
"I've always just kind of been fascinated with the process of American government because in some ways it is so much like English government, and some ways it is just so different," he said. "American politics is derived off the English Bill of Right in particular. England has in more recent years borrowed from the Americans."
Though, it was a restriction on the presidency written into the U.S. Constitution that ultimately led him to become president pro temp. Saunders originally planned on running for Boys Nation president, but his plan was halted when he found out that a Boys Nation president has to be a natural-born citizen.
He decided on a whim to run for president pro temp and won the office after three re-votes gave him a majority.
"It's the first step in my career hopefully in politics or civil service, which I am very interested in," Saunders said.
Thomas' decision to run for secretary of senate came on a similar impulse. He stood up during a session recess to talk with some other senators when a friend mistook his interaction with the group as an attempt to campaign for the secretary of senate position.
After some encouragement from a friend, Thomas decided to run for it. He won the audience over when he showed off a Boys Nation bookbag that he had used to collect Boys State pins given to him by senators from most of the other states represented.
"He encouraged me to run and I came up here," Thomas said. "I was scared when I gave my speech, but I pulled through."
Like Saunders, Thomas sees his position as the first step in his career.
"I'm loving everything," he said. "This is the field I want to go into – political science – and I'm learning a lot."