A fixture at virtually every American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State program is Legion Night, when members of the American Legion Family speak directly to the delegates about the Legion.
The delegates at Massachusetts Boys State and Girls State this year had some extra special speakers on Sunday night in National Commander Brett Reistad and National President Kathy Dungan.
As he introduced Dungan, Past National Commander Jake Comer noted this was the first time the Auxiliary’s national president had been to Massachusetts Girls State for Legion Night.
Both programs meet the same week at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass. This is the ninth year the programs have met in joint sessions at the college some 20 miles south of Boston.
While Dungan noted it could be a tiring week for the delegates, the program serves as “a great opportunity to meet other outstanding students.”
“There is a saying, ‘you get out of it what you put into it,’” Dungan said. “You have the power to make this week one of the best weeks of your life.”
Reistad said the delegates “represent the cream of the crop, the best young men and women that our nation has to offer.”
He referenced the famous photo of future president Bill Clinton shaking hands with President John Kennedy when Clinton was at Boys Nation, and noted Kennedy’s historic remarks, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
“Through American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State and other programs, we have been instilling this message into young people since our founding,” Reistad said. “You all have demonstrated the ability and willingness to continue this message simply by coming here, working so hard, and learning about our great country.
“If your schools and American Legion posts and Auxiliary units did not believe in you, you would not be here. Most of you are already active in your communities. If you’re serving your community, you are serving your country. And you are already part of the American Legion Family legacy. … The American Legion has been serving the youth of this country for the last 100 years, but it’s you, the young people who represent our future and the next great legacy of The American Legion.”
Reistad said the one message he hoped the delegates would take with them from their experience was the importance of service.
“You’ve shown an interest in serving our society and making it better simply through your participation in this program,” Reistad said.
Reistad and Dungan’s visit to Boys and Girls State coincided with their participation in Bunker Hill Day activities, which included marching in the Bunker Hill Day Parade earlier Sunday in Charlestown along with Comer, Department of Massachusetts Commander Jodie Pajak, and other Legion Family leadership. The parade recognized the 244th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill in addition to the centennial of The American Legion. On Monday, Reistad served as monument orator during Bunker Hill Day ceremonies.