As he spoke to his fellow American Legion Boys Nation senators Saturday night, candidate for president pro tempore Eddy Gonet encouraged first one party, then the other, to cheer.
Then he urged them to cheer together.
“You blew the roof off the place, we need a carpenter up there,” Gonet said. “When we were together, we were strongest. When we were together, we were loudest and united. And that’s how I work — bipartisanship. If we work together, we can accomplish more and get more things done.”
Gonet’s message got through, as he was elected president pro tempore for the 75th session of Boys Nation. Second in the voting on the first ballot of 11 candidates, Gonet edged Quentin Messer of Louisiana on the sixth ballot.
Messer had the fifth-highest vote total after the first ballot but momentum carried him into the final ballot against Gonet. Messer jumped from 24 votes on the fourth ballot to 43 on the next.
“If there’s one thing I stand by, it’s not over until it’s over,” said Gonet, an attitude he kept even as his supporters assured him he would win. “The whole process is nerve wracking. … He was a really great candidate.”
Gonet, of Massachusetts, is one of 30 senators at Boys Nation this session representing states other than their own, as pandemic restrictions forced 15 Boys State programs to cancel or delay their 2021 sessions. Gonet and fellow Massachusetts Boys Stater Michael Scoville are representing Illinois at Boys Nation this session.
Gonet acknowledged he had to do some research about Illinois before arriving at Boys Nation.
“It’s definitely a different experience, but it’s worthwhile too because you have connections from Massachusetts and then connections from this new state. I think it can be beneficial and it’s definitely a learning experience, because I’m learning about other places in the country besides my own state,” he said.
Following Gonet’s election, he oversaw the election of the secretary of the senate. Andrew Iskandar of Delaware won on the sixth ballot, edging John Costello of South Dakota by a 49-48 vote with one abstention.
In his candidate’s speech, Iskandar acknowledged that there were better speakers but said, “I believe that I can make our 2021 Boys Nation a record (one).”
Saturday night’s election results give the Nationalist Party and the Adams Section two of the four elected positions at Boys Nation. Senators will elect the president and vice president on Tuesday.
Also Friday and Saturday:
The 100 senators arrived in Washington, D.C., from across the nation throughout the day Friday. Those who flew were greeted at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport while others from nearby states were driven directly to Marymount University by their parents. After checking in, receiving Boys Nation polos and room keys and getting their photos taken, the senators unpacked and started mingling.
Friday night’s activities included section meetings, political party meetings and an ice cream social.
Saturday morning began with the daily flag raising followed by the senators taking the oath of office and officially beginning the business of Boys Nation.
Follow the happenings at American Legion Boys Nation at legion.org/boysnation and on YouTube at americanlegionHQ, and on social media on Twitter (@ALBoysNation) and Instagram (@theamericanlegion) with the hashtag #BoysNation75.