Ryan Jung took a quick glance at the folded sheet of paper on which was written his winning vote total in Tuesday night’s presidential election at American Legion Boys Nation, then stuck it back in his pocket.
So what did he think of that 59-41 tally?
“I think it’s just testament to the fact that some of us are able to look past our differences and some of us are just really diverse in our political beliefs. I mean, I come from California, quite a solidly blue state, and my best friend is from Alabama. I just love that having that genuine personality transcends your political beliefs,” Jung said. “Even though we may think differently on some political issues that are just real hot-button issues that we think divides our nation, we can look past it with this genuineness and this maturity, and I think regardless of whatever that vote count was, that’s the biggest thing I take away this week.”
Jung, the Nationalist Party candidate from California, defeated Federalist Dimitrios Owen of Virginia to be elected president of the 75th session of Boys Nation.
“For me, it’s just as personal and important to represent myself as a member of the (Asian American Pacific Islander) community as much as it is an opportunity to learn and challenge myself,” Jung said of his decision to run for president. “I thought that I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep at night at the end of the week if I just didn’t go for high office and I didn’t really put in 110 percent effort.”
One of Jung’s favorite books is “Strength to Love” by Martin Luther King Jr., a book whose lessons Jung hopes to use to unite the senators of Boys Nation.
“I think he’s able to unite disparate beliefs, disparate political parties, disparate racial groups,” Jung said of King’s writing. “And I hope that in the same vein I can unite our Federalists and Nationalists in that same sense. And it’s being able to have a degree of grace with one another. Having the strength to love one another like neighbors even though at times we seem like enemies. I still think it’s important to have that kind of grace, to understand that we are all common Americans, looking past our differences and keeping that in heart.”
Also elected Tuesday night was vice president Cameron Cummings, an Alabama Boys Stater selected to represent Michigan at Boys Nation. Because of pandemic restrictions, 15 Boys State programs canceled or delayed their sessions this summer so 30 senators from other states were randomly selected to represent those programs.
Ironically enough, Cummings, a Federalist, defeated fellow Alabamian and Michigan senator — and Boys Nation roommate — Aiden Sanders, a Nationalist, for the vice presidency.
“We were both really happy when each other won,” Cummings said. “When someone told me that Aiden won (the nomination), I was really surprised — not the fact that I didn’t have faith in him, but two people from the same state, sitting right beside each other in the same room, both got the vice presidential nomination, just amazing.”
While Cummings concedes he would have loved to represent Alabama at Boys Nation, “being here is an honor in itself; I would never take that for granted,” he said.
“I had to do a little research on issues in (Michigan) just in case I need to bring up in the senate chamber, so I could be well-versed in how they work and operate there,” he added. “… I’m still proud to say I’m representing Michigan.”
Jung and Cummings were officially sworn in Wednesday morning.
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.