Boys Nation experience opens doors for Maine youth

Peter Spectre’s dream school was Dartmouth, although he acknowledges that he wasn’t a quite strong enough student to make it.

His experience at Dirigo Boys State in Maine and Boys Nation last year helped shape his future.

“It really is a week that shapes a lifetime. It’s changed so much for me. It’s opened so many doors; I’m a good student, but I’m not a top, top student at my school. My dreams of going to Dartmouth were just that, a dream at that point. I definitely wouldn’t have gotten in to George Washington if it weren’t for Boys Nation,” Spectre said.

“But then, the things I did because of Boys Nation, the network experience I got, the experience at the statehouse … just so much changed because of it. I ended up winning a Rotary scholarship for $8,000, which makes a huge difference, and I know that is primarily because of my experience at Boys Nation, and not just the prestige of it but the things that came after it. When I came back, my principal nominated me as school board rep for (Regional School Unit) 71, so I’ve been doing that for seven months now.”

Spectre admits he started Boys State last summer a little behind. He does a bike ride every year to benefit the American Lung Association, and the end of the ride conflicted with the beginning of Boys State.

“So I showed up at Boys State like two hours late, I had like two minutes to do the survey to decide which party you would be in, and then I showed up at the first meeting where they decide the board for my party … because I showed up a little bit late, I missed the first election for the chair of my party, then right after that we started going into the town elections, so I gave a quick speech and I was second place for my town chair. So I didn’t even get that. But then the following couple of hours, we did the town mayor, so I got more time and I ended up being town mayor,” Spectre said.

He also wanted to run for governor, but didn’t have enough signatures to be nominated. He ended up working with eventual governor and fellow Boys Nation participant Seamus McDonough.

“So I helped him a lot on his campaign, and my town was mostly the other party, we ended up winning my town despite it being the other party by like 90 percent. So then he decided to nominate me as chief justice, which was cool, I really enjoyed it.”

Spectre didn’t know about Boys Nation until he went to Boys State.

“(My counselors) had talked to me a lot about it, but I didn’t have a lot of preconceived notions until we got in contact with Mark Seavey and he put us on the Facebook page, everybody started posting their bios and talking about it, and at that point I realized, I felt a little bit like a fish out of water (because everybody was so impressive).”

Still, McDonough and Spectre talked about running for president and vice president respectively at Boys Nation. Spectre grew leery of the idea when he saw how many others were running, but his roommate, Carter Outsa of Maryland, nominated him anyway.

“So I was the 18th candidate or something. … The chairperson of our party was a little upset with having to run speeches for 18 people. So we each got a minute, went through 18 speeches, and we narrowed it down to 10, then we did the official election process, it was all on a PowerPoint so you could see the vote total every time, and I started with 10 out of the 35 votes or something, and it just kept jumping every time people would drop out,” Spectre said.

“Then it got down to the final two, it was me and Riley Owen, who was the governor of California Boys State, and his speech was really impressive. I was like, there’s no way, he’s going to win. We gave our last remarks, we weren’t allowed to hear what the other person said. … I ended up winning by 65 or 70 percent, I did not expect that at all.”

Spectre faced Dody Eid of New Hampshire in the race for vice president.

“We did a debate on mostly domestic issues, but some foreign policy stuff. I remember getting up there and thinking, I am out of my league right now,” Spectre recalled, noting that one of the questions was about the Lebanese war, something Eid, whose family is from Lebanon, knew well.

“But the final question was about healthcare, and my mom is an ER manager, so I know quite a bit about that. I guess I left a decent enough final impression,” Spectre said.

The vote ended in a 49-49 tie, leaving the fate of the vice presidency to a coin toss. Spectre won.

“I felt pretty bad that he lost on a coin flip. But I was happy that I got to be vice president. He said, it’s OK, now you get to do all the work,” Spectre said.

While Spectre has always been interested in politics, he expected to major in business when he went to college. Last summer’s experiences changed that.

“Now my major in college is going to be international affairs,” he said.

Spectre wrote about his Boys State and Boys Nation experience in Imagine Magazine.

Boys Nation

At Boys State / Nation, participants learn the rights, privileges and responsibilities of franchised citizens. The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county and state governments.

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