After a spending the past week introducing legislation and arguing policy, the 70th Boys Nation class took advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on July 23 – spending the day on Capitol Hill.
For Kentucky senators Duncan Barron and Cubaka Mutayongwa, their meeting with Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was similar to something they would expect to see on their television screens.
“I enjoyed being able to see the day-to-day functions of the Senate and the House of Representatives that are not normally portrayed in the media,” said Barron, who has visited Capitol Hill before but never had the opportunity for such an intimate look at the inner workings of Congress. “If it wasn’t for The American Legion, I never would have had the level of access I had today. It’s one thing to read about it in a book and see it on TV, but it is totally different from being able to walk the halls and spontaneously run into a senator that you may never have had the chance to run into.”
The Kentucky senators, both of whom said they were a bit star-struck, took full advantage of their time with McConnell. Barron used the opportunity as a platform to pitch a bill he proposed on the Boys Nation senate floor regarding the Export Control Reform Initiative. The high school rising senior said he also enjoyed seeing Secretary of State John Kerry in passing.
While talking with the two young men, McConnell also shared memories of his time participating in Boys State with former President Bill Clinton.
For Mutayongwa, the trip to the Capitol was a dream come true. Four years ago Mutayongwa, his father and six brothers left the life they knew in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a fresh start in the United States. The senator said it meant a lot to him to be chosen to represent his state, and his heritage at Boys Nation.
“As far as I know, I am the first immigrant from my country to participate in Boys Nation,” he said. “Not only do I want to give back to a country who has given so much to me, I want to serve. I want to change policies. I’ve always wanted to do that. Before now, I never had the opportunity and Boys Nation gave that to me.”
Although Mutayongwa said he loves America and his new way of life, he plans to use the knowledge of the government he has obtained while participating in Boys State and Boys Nation to affect and implement change in his country one day if he ever has the chance to make it back there.
After the Kentucky senators graduate from the program later today, the young men echoed each other in saying that they can’t wait to get back home and share their Boys Nation experiences.