Ninety-eight young men stood with their right hands raised to take The American Legion Boys Nation oath of office on July 19 at Marymount University in Arlington, Va.
“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of The American Legion Boys Nation office on which I am about to enter, so help me God.”
The Boys Nation senators arrived to Marymount University on Friday to participate in one of The American Legion’s premier youth programs that allows young men to spend a week running a government, using the same political processes as those followed by the federal government.
The oath was administered by Louis Celli, retired U.S. Army veteran and director of The American Legion’s Legislative Division in Washington. He reminded the young men that the words they spoke “just aren’t words, these aren’t just something that you recite. These are the same words that you will take if you join the military. They are the same words that the president of the United States takes when he raises his hand for the Chief Justice, when senators and congressmen swear in – these are the same.”
Celli explained that defending the U.S. Constitution means to protect the country’s founding document, which embodies the essential spirit that guides America’s laws, norms and values. Bearing true faith and allegiance to the Constitution means pledging one’s “unconditional trust” as “one people – we are united as Americans. We are strong together.”
By swearing to the oath of office, Celli said Boys Nation participants show that they “understand that an awesome responsibility has been vested” with them. “You have been selected to come here from each one of your states, and you have been entrusted to represent your state in a way that will make them proud.”
Bob Turner, American Legion past national commander and Boys Nation director of activities, has been involved with the program for the past 32 years. He said the Boys Nation senators will debate and vote on legislation. "The goal of every one of these senators is to get his bill passed on the floor of the senate," he said. "They elect a president and a vice president, and – thanks to the Sons of The American Legion – they each get a scholarship to help them with their education.”
Because every Boys Nation delegate has participated in their departments respective American Legion Boys State program, Turner said they are already quite familiar with how the federal government operates. “The good thing for them now is that they’re going to be able to put it into practice. They’re actually going to assume the role of senators and argue the bills.”
Turner said some of the leaders at Boys Nation “are going to be tomorrow’s leaders, and it’s important that they’re ready for the roles they’re going to assume. And thank goodness organizations like The American Legion play a small part in preparing them for tomorrow.
“We use the motto here, ‘I’m ready,’ and I preach that to them all the time. No matter what they do in life, always be ready for the positions they take in the future. This country’s going to be in good shape.”