When Jordan was invited by his high school to apply for the 2016 Boys State, we had never heard of this program. We soon learned it is put on by The American Legion. After sitting through the Inaugural Ceremony Awards last Friday night at Cal State Sacramento, we are now ambassadors.
We learned Boys State has been going on for many years, since 1935 to be exact. Everyone, old and young, is excited to be there. The energy in the room pushed mania at closing ceremonies. It really is a state that belongs to these young men. This is clear when they cheer for each other’s success and their individual cities and counties on the last evening with earth-shattering hoots and hollers, fists flying high in the air.
During the ending Ceremony we had the honor of hearing Dick Tarble, now 96 years old, talk about his attendance at the first ever California Boys State. That’s how enthusiastic alum are to be in what they often referred to as a prestigious fraternity. We also met a sophomore from UCLA who missed the experience so much he returned to volunteer. Here’s Mr. Tarble who received a standing ovation from all 1,000 boys (and the few parents who were able to make it in the back two rows.)
If you’re like us, and don’t know what Boys State is, this from their website:
American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students. A participatory program in which students become part of the operation of local, county and state government…
Some famous Boys Staters include: Garth Brooks, Bill Clinton, Neil Armstrong, Phil Jackson, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Jordan, Dick Cheney, Michael Dukakis, Roger Ebert, Jon Bon Jovie, Tom Brokaw and a bunch of others.
Each junior boy is sponsored by the local American Legion chapter and selected by his high school to represent that area at the state meeting. Boys are transported from all over the state, some traveling all night by bus to show up at Sacramento State. They are assigned cities and counties for the week. Jordan’s city just happened to be Redding and his county was Chambers.
In the opening ceremony, the announcer told the boys to look around at each other because they just very well may sitting next to the next astronaut or President of the United States. Indeed, Jordan said he had never been around a group of such smart, funny, together kinda guys. All 1,000 of them. He met Anthony (from his home town of Torrance) who we will definitely see again. He met Dominic, who sat next to him during Awards and looked at him with huge eyes when he won the Samsung Scholarship Award which he didn’t anticipate getting. He met this team of three that were hard to leave. Jordan’s room apparently became the gathering room according to this group (and a group of others who had already loaded on the bus).
During the week, the boys were all supposed to work in their cities and counties to achieve certain tasks. As in any city, they needed officials, judges, lawyers (who had to pass a bar), negotiators–you name it. They had meetings long into the night to work out certain logistics. Group work at its finest. During the Awards Ceremony, model cities and counters were awarded places. Chambers won third top County so I guess they completed their tasks. What a great time to understand the political system since many of these boys, including Jordan, will vote in this whacked out election as their first ever election. The American Legion coordinators emphasized the importance of voting, of using your voice whatever that is, whenever you have an opportunity to do that at the polling place.
With work, comes play. During the late afternoons, boys were allowed to choose from a huge array of sport offerings: football, basketball, softball, table tennis, tennis, and volleyball. The City of Redding won first place in the Volleyball competition. The best part of sports it seemed to me was the way it broke up the mental tasks with 1,000 friends to hit the balls around and just plain brah out.
We talked to some other parents. It was clear to me some had known about Boys State and had strived to be included in the honor. We, on the other hand, we’re just trying to figure the whole thing out as we went. Still, I’m so thankful it happened for us the way it did and that Jordan was honored in this way to have such an unforgettable experience. The highlight for him are the relationships he’s built. He said this was one of the best experiences he ever had and he’ll never forget it.
The moments that take your breath away…