Boys Nation Day 1: ‘Welcome to Washington, Senators’

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It’s a delicate timeline each year at American Legion Boys Nation, a balancing act affected by air travel, weather, the vagaries of D.C. politics — and traffic — and more. Over the next week, we’ll follow the moments of the 72nd annual edition of Boys Nation, which began Friday with 98 delegates from 49 states headed to Marymount University in Arlington, Va., for “a week that shapes a lifetime.”

Welcome to Washington, Senator

8:57 a.m. — The first two delegates to arrive at American Legion Boys Nation check in at Marymount University. Maine’s Jackson Peck and Vermont’s Riley Fenoff are on the first flight to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The last to arrive will be Deven Mukkamala from Michigan, some 12 hours later after one of his flights was cancelled, forcing him to miss his connection.

Just part of the territory when bringing 98 young men from across the U.S. to the nation’s capital. Not everyone flew — eight delegates were driven to Marymount by parents or other family members.

Upon arrival at Marymount, the Boys Nation delegates are checked in, given their room keys (and gently warned to not lose them because of the cost to replace them) and presented with the yellow polos they’ll wear for the week. They get their pictures taken and are shown to their rooms by the junior counselors who will serve as their primary resources for the next week.

The 98 delegates are split into two parties, Federalist and Nationalist, and four sections, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Washington — their section determined by which state they’re from. They’ll meet in sections each night, and the parties will convene to decide on their platforms and candidates for president and vice president.

“Are you ready?”

6:10 p.m. — After dinner, the delegates and Boys Nation staff head outside for the flag-lowering ceremony. Soon enough, a group of delegates will be performing the ceremony, but on this first night, it’s a quintet of junior counselors — Rory Calabria, Ben Essex, Anthony Joseph, Spencer Pipkin and Matt Rosenthal — who lower the Boys Nation and American flags.

From there, it’s off to section meetings, where Program Director Mike Buss and Director of Activities Bob Turner each speak briefly about the program.

Buss advises the young men to thank the Legion posts who sponsored them for Boys State when they get back home. “After all, you wouldn’t be here without them,” he says.

Turner encourages the delegates to “be ready.” It’s the attitude they’ll need to carry all week as they become senators in the program, trying to pass bills and make their mark.

But first, there’s a cool end to a long hot day in D.C. — an ice cream social followed by party meetings in which Federalist counselor Joe Bishop and Nationalist counselor Joe McCraith fire up their respective parties for the week ahead.


Follow the happenings at American Legion Boys Nation 2017 here on and on social media using #2017BoysNation.

Boys Nation

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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