Alabama youth elected Boys Nation president

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By a vote of 52 to 46, Matthew Ellow of Lacey’s Spring, Ala., was elected Boys Nation president for the Class of 2014, narrowly defeating his opponent Joshua Cook from Knoxville, Tenn.

Louis Lombardo of Arlington, Texas, was elected Boys Nation vice president, beating out Michael Hill of Broken Arrow, Okla., by a 73 to 24 vote with one abstention.

Before elections, the platforms of the Nationalist and Federalist parties were presented to the senators gathered at Marymount University in Arlington, Va. Ellow and Cook then made their final campaign speeches to the Boys Nation senators.

Ellow spoke about the need to restore belief in each other, our Constitution, Americanism and patriotism. Cook said that America needs more than politicians – it needs leaders who will re-establish America as a global powerhouse.

The votes were then cast, with senators approaching the microphone two by two, brandishing placards from their home states. The senators took the time to thank American Legion posts who sponsored them before casting their votes. Many of them also thanked their father, mother and other relatives for their service in the Armed Forces.

The Boys Nation senators from Oregon put Ellow over the top, giving him two votes for a total of 50. Ellow said he felt “surprised” after being elected because he didn’t feel like he was going to win.

Ellow said he did not do well in the presidential debate held earlier in the day. “Josh Cook was obviously more knowledgeable and clearly better at speaking in a situation such as that, and in addressing the rules of the debate … 99 percent of the time the winner of the debate wins the election.”

After the debate, Ellow felt that Cook had won “a clear victory, I knew Josh had it.” But he said one of his friends spoke with him during dinner and said, “Listen, we’ve got you. We’re going to get you in. Don’t worry, don’t stress.”

At that moment, Ellow said that shivers went down his spine. “That was the shining moment of my quote-unquote career as a leader. Just knowing that all the work I gave back, all the help I’ve given people this week – and I think that, for once, it finally paid off and they put me before them, regardless of the circumstances.”

Ellow said the election was a humbling experience, knowing that “97of the brightest, most brilliant, most creative, overwhelmingly intelligent minds in the United States vested in me their confidence to lead them to a better America.”

In the months ahead, Ellow plans to campaign at his school to get people to go to Boys State and Boys Nation, “and I’m not going to have to do much campaigning. It took me nine or 10 hours to realize this was going to be the week that shapes who I am as a person.

“The American Legion, in and of itself, is an absolutely wonderful program to help veterans. I got involved with The American Legion in ninth grade, and I stay involved with them. It’s a great civic and patriotic training program that I believe all of the youth needs to be involved in – all of them.”

In the vote for vice president, President Ellow and his Alabama colleague cast the first two votes for Lombardo, who took an early lead. By the time Oklahoma stepped up to vote, Lombardo needed only one vote to win. His opponent, Hill, actually cast the vote that put Lombardo over the top. Later on in the balloting, Lombardo and his Texas colleague cast their votes for Hill.

Over the next few days, Lombardo said he wants to focus on “efficiency but also on just having fun and making sure this is a learning environment the rest of the week. Obviously, with a working Senate, things can get heated sometimes. But I want every single person that’s out there, all 98 of us, to be able to leave and say it was the greatest week of our lives and that every second we had, we took the most out of it.”

Boys Nation, Lombardo said, is “an incredible program run by a bunch of incredible people and definitely something you should take advantage of if you have the opportunity. The more effort that you put into the program, the more you get out of it. Not only are you getting something out of the program, but you’re also bringing that back to your community and improving it as a whole.”

In the presidential debate, Ellow and Cook answered questions submitted by the senators and posed alternately by Federalist Party Advisor Dale Barnett and Nationalist Party Advisor Joe McCraith.

The debate included questions about tensions with Russia, illegal immigration, minimum wage, gun control, the cost of higher education, and the state of the Department of Veterans Affairs health-care system.

While the two candidates agreed on several issues, Cook maintained that minimum wage increases should be the responsibility of state and local governments. Ellow believed that any wage increase should be left up to the private sector.

On the topic of VA health care, Cook had a more personal response. Noting that his grandfather had to wait three years to see a VA neurologist, he would “get rid of VA leadership and start from scratch.” Ellow added that average wait times for some veterans seeking health care sometimes lasted many months. He recommended removing VA leadership that was causing all the problems and “appoint those who are trustworthy, who can go in and do the dirty work.”

When asked about their vision of the country’s future, Cook said he wanted to see America become once again a powerhouse for innovation with a strong economy. Ellow said his vision was simple: “We want to be free, prosperous and work together – live in peace and security.”

The vice presidential candidates, Hill and Lombardo, also debated earlier in the day. They fielded questions on topics that included the legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, the national debt, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, and how to make Congress more cooperative.

Lombardo drew applause from the senators when he said that people like to point fingers at Congress, but Congress “is a collection of voices from voters. Speak to your congressmen and tell them you do not approve.” Hill said he completely agreed that Congress “needs to make some compromises. If this doesn’t happen, then Congress will shatter.”

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