A mentally and emotionally drained Anighya Crocker stepped to the podium Tuesday night, the winner in one of the more emotional presidential elections at American Legion Boys Nation.
“There’s a strange sense of melancholy,” Crocker told his fellow delegates. “First thing I would like to address is I had two hours of sleep last night, and I’m beginning to question if I am still alive. Second, this is the greatest honor that has ever been bestowed upon me. … There’s nothing more than I can say than thank you.”
Crocker, of Springfield, Tenn., and the Federalist candidate for Boys Nation president, defeated Nationalist Manny Jones of Bensalem, Pa., following a passionate, emotional debate.
“I think these elections, especially this one, really show the passion and the fire and the drive that this generation has, that we want to put toward our country,” Crocker said later in the evening. “Speaking for myself, I love America. I love America, and I think we have this new sentiment where people who analyze America are considered un-American. Rather I submit the contrary, that anyone that is willing to analyze their own country and attempt to better it, I think that’s the most American thing that you can do.”
Before the vote, Jones apologized to Crocker and the other Boys Nation senators for letting his emotions take over during the presidential debate, which prompted a standing ovation and a hug from Crocker.
“What now I think is us moving forward, us running forward, us being united as one body for the betterment of this nation, the betterment of tomorrow,” Crocker said. “We’re going to have kids, and our kids are going to have kids, and I think it’s a really great thing that we get to go and shape the nation and start working on the nation we want, not for ourselves, but for them and for their kids.”
Crocker, who served as governor of Tennessee Boys State, said Boys Nation was a “shockingly emotional” program.
“I’ve never been exposed to something that was so brazenly emotional. The Tennessee Boys State program is very different from this, very militaristic, it’s a very hard program, and it’s a great program, I loved every second of it. … This program is the softer side, this is the cerebral side, that lets all of us be Americans,” he said.
Choteau Kammel of Omaha, Neb., the Nationalist candidate for vice president, was elected after Federalist Rudy Ogburn of Raleigh, N.C., chose to drop out of the race at the end of the vice presidential debate.
“It certainly sets a very interesting precedent for future Boys Nations. I believe this is probably the first time a candidate has ever won essentially by default; I’m not sure if I should be honored or offended by that,” Kammel said.
Describing himself as a shy person—“I don’t usually go outside my little box”— Kammel said he chose to run for vice president because he didn’t want to have any regrets.
“Going into it, I was just thinking it’s already a huge honor to be here in the first place. All these guys are extremely intelligent young men who are going to go back to their communities and do fantastic things. But do I want to go back and say I was just there? Is that what I would like to tell people? And I decided that if there are these opportunities I can get out of (Boys Nation), I’m not going to just take the fact that I had a plane ticket here as fulfillment of my journey to this place,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, Marymount University President Dr. Matthew Shank spoke about the pride the school has in having hosted Boys Nation for the past 31 years.
“Every year, it gets better and better,” Shank said. “I pulled up this morning right when the flag raising was going on, I couldn’t be more proud to see Marymount, Boys Nation and the American flag together.”
Boys Nation alum and member of the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery, Capt. Zach Kennedy, also spoke about his experiences at Boys Nation.
“It really awakened a sense of patriotism in me that I didn’t realize was lying dormant like it was,” said Kennedy, who participated in the Boys Nation wreath-laying ceremony as a delegate in 2006.