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"Hello Senator. Welcome to Washington!" This was the energetic greeting Boys Nation staff gave to the 98 senators once they arrived to the baggage claim area at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., on Friday. As with any new adventure, many of the senators' had mixed emotions after departing the plane.
"Coming off the plane I was intimidated and nervous because I thought the other guys were going to be brainiacs and everyone was going to be the next president of the United States," said Christian Chung from Davie, Fla. "But I soon realized that everyone is really down to earth, and I made friends in just a short amount of time. So I'm excited for the week ahead."
As for Calvin Brown from Bristol, Conn., he was ready to dive right in.
"I made friends right away, and we immediately started talking about politics, government and what Boys Nation meant to us all," Brown said.
After leaving baggage claim with luggage in tow, the senators were transported by bus to their residence of stay for the eight-day program, Marymount University in Arlington, Va. The senators arrived at different times throughout the day, but upon arrival to Marymount each senator fulfilled registration requirements which entailed obtaining a room assignment, getting an individual picture taken and receiving two Boys Nation shirts and a bag. Afterward, the young boys ventured off to their dorm room to unpack and meet their new roommate.
The dorm rooms were divided into four sections - Washington, Adams, Jefferson or Madison - and each senator was assigned to one of the four. The sections become the senators community throughout their stay, and each section has two junior counselors who are past Boys Nation delegates, along with one senior counselor, who is a Legionnaire. Many of the senior counselors, as well as staff, have longevity with the program. For example, American Legion Past National Commander Robert Turner is entering his 28th year with Boys Nation.
As soon as most of the delegates were accounted for, as a handful was coming in late at night, the four sections had a meeting that took place in classrooms on campus. During the meeting, the senators became acquainted with their fellow section mates and received rules and policies for the program from the junior and senior counselors. Other staff involved with Boys Nation dropped by each section meeting to introduce themselves and their role within the program.
Once the section meetings concluded, the senators, counselors and staff enjoyed an ice cream social in celebration of the 2010 Boys Nation program. After filling up on an array of ice cream bars, the senators met with their respective political party - Nationalists or Federalists - that they were assigned to prior to their arrival at Boys Nation.
The political party meetings allowed the senators to interact with their fellow party members and many senators used this time to campaign for office. Each political party will elect a president and vice president, as well as other officers, on Tuesday. During the political party conventions that will take place throughout the week, the senators will discuss and pass a wide range of legislative bills and resolutions.
For the first day of Boys Nation, the senators activities required them to be on campus, but many are looking forward to the upcoming days where they will be visiting historical sites around Washington.
"I've never been outside of the state of California, so flying in and seeing Georgetown University, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial made my heart skip because this is where I want to be in life," said Jimmy Ramirez from Oakley, Calif. "I'm just gracious toward The American Legion and everyone that made it possible for me to be here."
In the meantime, the first day of Boys Nation has ended, but "a week that shapes a lifetime" has just begun.