Sitting among his fellow American Legion Boys Nation senators in 2019, Luke Takashima had an unsettling feeling.
“Coming to Boys Nation was the first time I looked around a room and I could say that I was possibly one of the least intelligent, least well-spoken, and across the board least impressive people in the room. That was a great experience for me, honestly,” Takashima recalled.
Takashima, a first-year junior counselor at this year’s 75th session of Boys Nation, was part of a panel of Boys Nation alumni who shared their experiences and advice on Thursday night. He was joined on the panel by fellow junior counselor Colby Lewis, senior counselor Zach Kennedy, fellow 2019 Boys Nation alumnus Nathan Wang, and panel moderator and Boys Nation legislative director Wells Ellenberg.
Takashima encouraged this year’s senators to know their strengths and play to them without hiding their weaknesses.
Lewis emphasized the importance of doing things you’re passionate about. “I had a lot of positions that I actually hated because I thought it would help me get to the next step,” he said. “… If you love doing something, you’re going to do it better, you’re going to do it to the best of your ability.”
Wang, whose Boys Nation legislation inspired part of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, encouraged those who lost elections at Boys Nation to not let the experience sour them. He noted that he lost every office he tried for during his year at Boys Nation, but the program isn’t just about elections.
“It’s really (about) being able to connect with your peers,” Wang said.
Kennedy noted that he was the first kid from his hometown in Tennessee to attend a service academy, a challenge because he didn’t have an example to follow.
“Thankfully, I had wonderful mentors that pushed me out of my comfort zone a bit to do that,” Kennedy said. “I hope this program helps develop a foundational sense of self-confidence that allows you to see these things are possible.”
Kennedy also encouraged the senators to be aggressive in pursuing their goals.
“It’s your responsibility to manage your outcomes in your life. It’s not your parents, it’s not your teachers, but think of all the people that have invested in you and given you the opportunity to be here. And now it’s your responsibility to do something with it,” he said.