A year after senators from American Legion Boys Nation and American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation had to meet virtually with their U.S. senators due to pandemic restrictions, the high school seniors were once again in person on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
The annual visit to the offices of the U.S. Senate allows the delegates from Boys Nation and Girls Nation to meet with their senators and their staff to discuss legislation and policy both real world and in the young people’s programs.
“Meeting with the senator was a great experience,” said Holden Fershee of Nebraska after a meeting with Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb. “It was great to talk to her and hear what other people from Nebraska have to say about being in Washington, D.C., and working with other people and making legislation.”
His fellow Nebraskan, Vikram Menon, said the meeting “was truly awesome.”
“I feel like the fact that senators are able to take time out of their day to meet with high school students like us truly demonstrates how caring they are, how much they believe in the future of American democracy,” Menon said.
A busy day on Capitol Hill meant some Boys Nation senators met with staff members rather than senators themselves. That didn’t bother Georgia’s Jason Eappen and Luke Pullin, who met with one of Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff’s legislative aides.
“It was a truly great meeting, because the staff member really understands Sen. Ossoff’s policies and all the ins and outs, and getting to hear Sen. Ossoff’s stance on all the issues is really inspiring to hear,” Eappen said.
“I already knew most of the senator’s stances on policies, I was more focused really on the job of legislative assistant honestly, and how you get to that job,” said Pullin. “Washington, D.C., is one of my favorite cities in the country, I’d love to live here and work here someday, especially helping out with the legislative body.”
While many of the Boys Nation and Girls Nation senators were making their way to appointments in the Senate offices, others — whose appointments were to meet at the Capitol itself — found themselves witnessing a press conference in which representatives of The American Legion and other veterans service organizations criticized the Senate vote which delayed passage of the Honoring Our PACT Act.
The annual visit to Capitol Hill also gave alumni of the programs the opportunity to see what the next generation is accomplishing.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, spoke with the Boys Nation senators from his state about his experience at Boys Nation in 1985. And Max Hurst, an aide to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., credited his experience at Illinois Boys State for helping lead him to Washington.
“I think the Boys and Girls State programs are so essential because they give young folks real-world, hands-on practice in democracy and learning civics at a young age, and get folks started in the political process and the civics process,” Hurst said. “No matter where you go in your career or life, you still hold that Boys and Girls State and Nation experience with you, and use those leadership skills and civics knowledge in your personal life and your communities for the rest of your life.”