A tradition at American Legion Boys Nation is that exemplary delegates who aren’t elected to one of the program’s four top offices may be invited back for the next three years to serve as junior counselors.
U.S. Navy Commander Hunter Scott was invited back for just one year as a “JC” – not by choice – but that experience provided a lesson in leadership he would never forget.
“(I learned) for me to be an effective leader, I first need to be comfortable with myself,” Scott said during a July 2023 return to Marymount University — home of Boys Nation since 1986.
“And then I would have the intention to not focus on myself but to focus on the people that I would be responsible for leading.”
Scott, a special assistant to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accompanied then-Chairman Gen. Mark Milley to Marymount for an unprecedented visit to Boys Nation.
The visit also gave Scott a chance to reminisce about his experience at Florida American Legion Boys State and American Legion Boys Nation in the summer of 2002, as well as his one year as a Boys Nation staffer in 2003.
“When I came to Boys Nation in 2002, I was, I think, a very good delegate. I loved our country, still do. I love our government. I love our military. I love all aspects of living a life of service. And so when I got to Boys State and then was selected to go to Boys Nation, I took the program very seriously; I loved every part of it. I was fully engaged. I introduced legislation. I was involved in all the conversations. I always tried to sit in the front, ask engaging questions, develop relationships with the other boys … I loved it. And I think the counselors took notice of that, too, because I was invited back to be a counselor.”
That chapter of his American Legion Boys Nation story did not turn out as well.
“I was a terrible counselor. Because, upon many years of being able to reflect on this, of my own insecurities. I wanted to be well liked and to be thought of as cool more than I wanted to be, to use Navy words, ‘in command,’ or responsible for good order and discipline and make sure these boys got the most out of the program. So, I didn’t enforce basic discipline standards, I lost control of the group, my group was rowdy and undisciplined, and by the time I realized that I kind of needed to bring in the reins a little bit, it was too late.”
Given the effectiveness of the lesson he learned from his year as a Boys Nation junior counselor — plus his cherished memories of his time at Florida Boys State and as a Boys Nation delegate — Scott remains an ardent supporter of the programs.
“I think every boy in America ought to go to Boys State. And if you can, Boys Nation. They are really, really incredible programs. It doesn’t matter what your dreams or goals are; for me, you can see a direct line to Boys State or Boys Nation, and my path as an officer in the military. Whether you want to go into business or you want to be in healthcare, or you want to be engaged in your community in some regard, I think Boys State makes a lot of sense, because we all feel the decisions of our government. So, whether we are directly involved, we’ve got to know how the process works.”
With ongoing recruiting shortfalls, Scott also encouraged young people to be open-minded about considering the military as a career.
“The longer I’ve been in, the more I love it,” Scott said while acknowledging he faced an initial “culture shock” when he first entered the service. “One, it gives a real sense of purpose to your life. We all take an oath to support and defend the Constitution; I take that oath very seriously. It is the second most important oath I have taken, the first being to my God. Two, I work with really incredible people, all day, every day.
“… I love the sense of service, I love the people, and I love the mission that we do. Being able to protect our democracy and fight to preserve our values all over the world, that is really important to me. I just recommend everyone in high school or college, or at any point, be open-minded to the military, because it is a really, really wonderful life.”