2011 Boys Nation senators arrive to Marymount University in Arlington, Va. Photo by Charlie Tucker

2011 Boys Nation senators settle in

Click here for video highlights from day one.

Friday marked the start of the week that shapes the future and lasts a lifetime for 98 Boys Nation senators. The young men arrived throughout the day at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., where they were greeted with welcome banners and handshakes from Legionnaires and Sons of The American Legion volunteering with the program.

The senators were transported by bus to their home for the next week: Marymount University in Arlington, Va. Upon arrival, they were assigned dorm rooms, had their pictures taken, and received black Boys Nation messenger bags and two shirts to be worn with khaki pants. From there, Boys Nation junior counselors escorted the senators to their designated dorm floor, which are divided into four sections - Jefferson, Washington, Adams and Madison. Each section has one senior counselor, who is a Legionnaire, along with two junior counselors, who are past Boys Nation senators.

"This is my third year as a junior counselor, and I really enjoy coming back because of the people I work with, especially (American Legion Past National Commander) Bob Turner," said Andrew Behnkendorf, a senior at Iowa State University. "It's always fun to see the new guys as delegates and see all the new ideas that they bring, but my favorite thing about Boys Nation is the friendships that I've made with the senior staff and the other junior counselors."

The first day of activities involved the senators staying on campus and inside, which was a relief to all as temperatures soared to 102 degrees. First, the four sections held a brief orientation where the junior and senior counselors discussed The American Legion's four pillars and voiced program rules and policies, while the senators' introduced themselves and shared how they were chosen to attend Boys Nation.

"My father is a former Idaho Boys State delegate so he really recommended that I attend the program (California Boys State) as a way to see that there's more to understanding our government than what I currently learn in school," said Tor Gudmundsson from Hanford, Calif. "I immediately called my dad when I got selected to attend Boys Nation because he made it to the interview but didn't get selected. So it was fun to say, ‘Dad, I got it. I'm in so I'm going to Boys Nation!' He's happy that I'm interested in this and knows it's a good direction for me. I'm going to run for president, but regardless of how I do, I'm going to get a fantastic experience from this week."

Following the section meetings, the senators cooled off with an ice cream social that allowed everyone to get acquainted and discuss politics, legislation and how fortunate they are to be at Boys Nation.

The opportunity to attend Boys Nation is a chance in a lifetime, and the senators understand this fully, as the Boys State programs have an attendance from 15 to 1,000.

"It's such an honor to be one of two candidates selected out of 150 other New Mexico Boys State guys because everyone was a great candidate," said Stephen Markham from Las Cruces, N.M. "I am really enjoying talking to the others here, and I'm excited to run the senate proceedings. I want to see if maybe we as senators can run things as well or more efficiently than our actual legislators."

And though the evening was getting later, the activities didn't end after the ice cream social. Instead, each senator met with his respective political party-Nationalist or Federalists-to interact with fellow party members and campaign for office. The two political parties will elect a president and vice president, as well as other officers, on Tuesday. The candidates' debate and the elections will be aired live via www.legion.org. Click here to see the agenda for times.

Today, the senators will attend orientation, take the Boys Nation Oath of Office, discuss legislative bills and resolutions, and decide who will campaign for office.

Click here for Boys Nation day one photos.