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How To Write A Boys State Essay

Pls. critique this deeply. Be very very mean.

You can say I was a late motivated bloomer. Before high school, I was living a coach-potato life: playing video games and watching television. For hours, I eagerly waited on my facebook for a simple "lol". As my regrets began to accumulate, I developed a self-defeated outlook in life. Why didn't I join speech? Why did I stay in the house while my friends were out watching movies and playing games? Two years before, no one would have ever expected that I would win the Iowa Auditor position, but when I decided to make a move, I realized I was capable of greater achievements. There are goals in life that we want to accomplish but fail to achieve because we fear of failure and rejections. But if we take risks and persevere, the rewards are great and open up a world of possibilities.

Last summer, I attended a summer leadership and citizenship program in Johnston, Iowa. Fitting with the Boys State Camp's emphasis on civic service, each participant was required to run for a political position. It's selection process was highly competitive and to be elected to one of the highest positions puts you among the top leaders in the state. While this meant that I would have to push myself out of my comfort zone, I was not going to waste my chance to shine at Boys State, so I chose to run for a particularly popular position: State Auditor. Predicting a tough battle, I started my petition early, communicating my vision as I asked for people's endorsements. By the end of the first day, twenty-four supporters eventually signed my petition, and I was ready to run.

The following morning, my heart pounded as I walked into the hall where speeches were to be made for the primaries. When the moderators finally called my name, I closed my eyes and blocked the whispers in my head, whispers that said, "You will fail." Too many times, my anxieties had caused me to walk away from challenging goals. There was always a possibility a failure, but I would have never known the outcome if I didn't try.

I breathed slowly, and started slowly toward the podium as the crowd divided. Whispers circulated like hisses. At the podium, I turned to a sea of staring faces. Again, I closed my eyes, summoned every last ounce of courage and determination, and opened them. Then I began to speak of my life in Philippines and America. The speech seemed to go well, with some audience members paying attention, but to actually win I knew "some" wasn't enough. Inspiration struck when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a green bottle on a desk beside me. Spontaneously, I put aside my planned speech and pointed to the bottle. I blurted out, "What do you see here?" Someone heckled the obvious, " A bottle." Undaunted, I countered, "What is so special about this bottle?" For about three seconds, no one spoke, but then one person declared, "It's green!" Realizing I had captured my audience's interest, I said, "That's right. It's green and what else is green?" Now they got it. "Money!" they yelled back. Buoyed, I began to discuss how the auditor handles money. By then, everyone was rapt. When I took a risk in changing the direction of my speech, it moved me one step closer to my goal.

I emerged victorious, winning the auditor position in the primary with 140 votes. Yet I knew that I needed even more votes for the general election, and I worked tirelessly drawing campaign slogans, posting signs. Now I can honestly say to my classmates that, if I put my mind to it, I could become a workaholic. When I was working on my speech, I revised my ideas for hours, scribbling on different-colored sheets. When it was finally time to deliver it, I was the second to last speaker. The audience was getting a little rowdy and my legs were shaking uncontrollably. In my mind, however, I resolved to deliver a great speech. When I finally reached the podium, I evoked my vision of true leadership: results, accomplishments, and hard work. To illustrate this vision, I told a story about my dad, about how one man's hardships and struggles caused him to seek a better life for him and his family. During school, he always felt inferior. Every day, he pretended to read and stayed in the classroom during recess because he couldn't afford to buy snacks in the break room. Sometimes, he would eat the leftovers left behind by students on the table. When he decided to focus on his education, his life positively changed and now, my family is in America. He passed on his vision of true leadership to me and emphasized education, so his children would not repeat his younger life. Because of his influence, I told the crowd that I wasn't going to waste my opportunities that someone else had granted. While I was talking, no one spoke a word. I ended with a simple thank you, and the crowd erupted in applause. That was when I knew I had won.

The state auditor position made my Boys State experience unforgettable. We wrote bills and advised the governor on which bills were to be signed, gaining new insights into how the government works. During our visit to the capital, we got a special tour, during which we entered actual state offices and climbed up into the usually restricted golden dome of the capital. I forged new friendships and was able to hear my peers' countless interesting life experiences and stories.

More importantly, however, I gained a deeper insight into my own capabilities and strengths. This was not the first time I had taken a risk, but the experience became the catalyst of my self-realization. For the past months, I've grown to appreciate my abilities. During the Christmas concert, I held my head high as I walked in front of a crowd of two hundred to accompany the choir. Now, I do not fear messing up as I played my piano solos for jazz band because I believe my abilities will take the band to the State Jazz competition. For now, I do not stop myself from dreaming of working at Microsoft, or inventing the new ipod touch.

After the Boys State experience, I knew I could compete with the best, and I knew that my persistence would always drive me toward my goals. Now, at my school, I am the only one who is applying to the most competitive schools. I do not know what the future holds and, even now, thoughts of failure and rejection do occasionally swim through my head. However, nothing is going to stop me, as I know that great opportunities and learning are what I will gain from overcoming the college challenge.

Most of the time it is most convenient to do nothing, to just sit around as our life stagnates. Sometimes I ask myself what would have happened had I just sat on a chair and waited to win that position, and I know that the answer is: nothing. So, while the threat of failure is intimidating, embracing that threat also brings us one step closer to success. In the process, we discover our strengths, improve ourselves, and learn. At Boys State, I learned stories of teens overcoming heartbreak or the loss of a friend to become leaders at their schools. To this day, I draw inspiration from those stories, and trust that, while I will always remember these memories, the 2010 Boys Staters will never forget their Iowa Boys State Auditor.

What is Texas Boys State?

American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for high school students. It is a participatory program where each student becomes a part of the operation of his local, county, and state government.

Boys State has been a program of The American Legion since 1935, when it organized to counter the fascist-inspired Young Pioneer Camps. The program was the idea of two Illinois Legionnaires, Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card, who organized the first Boys State at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

The American Legion Auxiliary sponsors a similar program for young women called Girls State.

At American Legion Boys State, participants are exposed to the rights and privileges, the duties and the responsibilities, of a franchised citizen. The training is objective and practical, with city, county, and state governments operated by the students elected to the various offices.


Texas Boys State is a celebrated program having graduated several of America’s leaders. Boys State programs around the U.S. count among their alumni such leaders as Bill Clinton, George Pataki, Harry Reid, Mike Huckabee, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Jordan.

Below is but a sampling of praise Texas Boys State has received in recent years:

"I am a Boys’ State alumni of 2013. Let me start off by saying that the Boys’ State Program was a life changing experience. At the end of my junior year, I was presented with the opportunity to attend the esteemed American Legion Boys' State program in Austin, Texas. This was an experience that I first expected to be just another little activity in my high school career that would benefit me somehow later down the road, but ended up being an unbelievable experience in which I met a lot of different people from all over, from different backgrounds, and with very different points of view. We would have speakers day to day speak to us about government, citizenship, and how different political parties work. Upon listening to these speakers, we would proceed to collaborate amongst ourselves about our opinions. This kind of collaboration was extremely constructive. After opening my mind and listening to what others thought and had to say, I was able to get much more out of what was offered. Eventually, some of my own opinions even began to change, something that I never thought would happen. I still had many of my same conservative views, but after learning from some of those around me, I began to sympathize with some more different opinions. I found that opening my mind to what others think and believe would greatly benefit me and tremendously contribute to my success in the future."

Boys State Delegate 2013

"Through Boys State, I took my first steps to becoming a man. I learned that standing for what you believe in is your responsibility and not doing so is failure. I learned that opportunity is a small window that will close if you don't take advantage of it. But if you do it opens up into incredible possibilities. I learned that if you really want something, you just have to go and get it, before somebody else does."

Boys State Delegate 2012

"Boys State ranks among the top programs I have been privileged to be a part of. I’m reminded constantly about the unique bond I share with the select few. For example, over spring break, I was on a mission trip in Johannesburg, South Africa, when I was stopped by a man who attended Boys State over 50 years ago. During the same trip, a mother in the Baltimore-Washington International Airport stopped to tell me her son went to Boys State 10 years ago."

Boys State Delegate 2012

During my experience at Boys State, I had the opportunity to seek and hold some of the 'coolest' positions: stateparty delegate, party whip and even Governor candidate. Though I lost in the general election for governor, I learned a very important and valuable lesson, reflected in one of my favorite quotes by Fred McClure — 'There is no progress without failure, and each failure is a lesson learned.'"

Boys State Delegate 2012

"For admission into Texas A&M, we value leadership development in our applicants and look favorably on those who have been selected to attend the Boys State program. We view this program as one that brings together students who have exhibited strong academic potential, solid leadership skills, dedicated commitment to service, and strength in character."

Dr. Alice Reinarz, Assistant Provost for Enrollment, Texas A&M University

"Throughout my 36-year career as a high school teacher, Congressional aide, member of the Texas House of Representatives and as a university president, I have observed the results of the effective leadership experiences given to students who participate in Boys State. This outstanding program prepares young men for leadership in university student government organizations, giving participants a competitive edge when they enroll in their respective universities. I know of no better experiential learning programs for those who have a keen interest in government and politics. I recommend the Boys State experience without reservation!"

Dr. Lanny Hall, President, Howard Payne University

"The American Legion Boys State Program is not an insignificant experience in the lives of the young men who participate. It’s unfortunate that more young men cannot have this once in a lifetime opportunity. It has been a life altering event in the lives of many young men over the years. Friendships develop and flourish, dreams are born and human potential is stirred, memories are made while new personal challenges begin to govern career goals–all of this from one short, but powerful program. I highly recommend the Boys State Program."

Dr. Dennis P. McCabe, President, Tarleton State University

"51 years ago I stepped onto the UT Campus, a nervous young boy from Baytown, Texas. When I pulled on my white Boys State T-shirt with my Levi jeans, loafers and a fresh flattop haircut I started an incredible few days of what could only be called a civics reality show. I ran for state treasurer (and lost) but I did learn how to make political signs and overcome my fear of talking to strangers (not just talking but trying to convince them to vote for me). I yelled like crazy for my party’s gubernatorial candidate. I saw an incredible performance by a hypnotist. I stared in wonder at the mustangs in the fountain on San Jacinto. I danced in Gregory Gym with a Girls State attendee from my high school (the two programs overlapped at that time). It seems that I remember more details from those few days 51 years ago than I remember about last month…that says something about how powerful the experience was. Because I now work at UT, last week I stepped out of the Texas Union to a parade of young men wearing their white Boys State T-shirt and jeans and starting their own few days of a civic reality show. What a rush of memories filled my heart and mind. These young men will do many important things in their lives as our future leaders but I am betting that the memory of Boys State will be among their most treasured. There is a sales slogan used by a local car dealership that states 'We couldn't have stuck around this long if we were doin’ you wrong.' Amen to that and Go Boys State!"

Bruce Walker, Vice Provost & Director of Admissions, University of Texas at Austin

Boys State Criteria

In the actual selection of Boys State citizens, merit and ability alone are the basis for selection. Boys State is not a program for underprivileged boys nor is it a summer camp for recreation. American Legion Posts or other community-minded organizations often pay fees, or "tuition," with little to no expense to the young men.

We wish to secure equal delegate representation from all areas of the State of Texas; therefore, the Department Boys State Committee asks for one or more boy(s) from each accredited high school (public or private) to be nominated by the school to attend.

Characteristics of the "ideal" Boys Stater

To be selected for nomination or appointment as a Texas Boys State delegate, the candidate must demonstrate:

  • Strong academic performance (e.g., a quick study) to thrive in this fast moving program
  • Excellent Interpersonal skills (e.g., gets along very well with others from all backgrounds)
  • Exhibited leadership (e.g., a leader of leaders)
  • Solid Oratorical skills (e.g., a persuasive speaker and confidence shown in group settings)
In addition, the candidate must:
  • be a male high school student
  • have successfully completed his junior year
  • have at least one semester remaining
  • have not previously attended Boys State
  • be recommended by his school officials
  • have parents’/guardians’ permission to attend
  • be certified by the sponsoring American Legion post, and
  • sign the Boys State Pledge

Learn By Doing


At Texas Boys State, the young citizen has the opportunity to learn for himself that his government is just what he makes it!  Citizens of Texas Boys State use the “Learn By Doing” approach to leadership by taking part in the political process. This can supplement what they learn in the classroom. Texas Boys State is a practical opportunity to learn leadership skills through role-play civic exercises.

Citizens of Texas Boys State not only will be required to review knowledge already acquired concerning the political machinery of a state, but they will find themselves running for office as real candidates do in the everyday world.  At Texas Boys State, citizens organize their own city, county and state governments, and they choose their own officials in accordance with regular election procedures.  In addition, they learn the duties of the various city, county, and state officers, and they introduce and argue their own bills in a Legislature.

The entire program is non-partisan. Problems will be considered without reference to any existing political party and will be free from propaganda. The sole purpose is to enable the boy to grasp the meaning of some of the responsibilities which he will be called upon to assume when he becomes an adult. It should be distinctly understood that the selection and assignment of the boys to parties is in no way connected with the existing political parties in Texas. The “political parties” in Texas Boys State are called “Nationalists” and “Federalists.”  They are purely mythical and none of the principles typifying any of the existing parties will be adopted by Texas Boys State.


History of Boys State

The youth movement in the United States known as Boys State originated by the Illinois Department of The American Legion in 1934. The plan was adopted by the national organization in 1935, and has been put into operation in 48 states. Our two most recent states, Hawaii and Alaska, do not operate their own programs but do send delegates to other states. A Boys State is operated in the Panama Canal Zone and the District of Columbia. By authority of a mandate of the 1939 Department Convention held in Waco, the Americanism Committee met in Austin with Commander Lou Roberts of Borger and made plans for the first Boys State of Texas.

Carrie Wilcox, Department Historian of The American Legion, Department of Texas, describes the first Lone Star Boys State in her book, The American Legion in Texas, as follows:

"This program was destined to grow in scope and value. Lee O. Smith of Beaumont headed a staff of capable, enthusiastic counselors as 108 boys registered for Lone Star Boys State in Austin, June 10, 1940. The boys, under the direction of the staff, were divided into three political parties. They elected a full complement of state, county, and city officials. Their elections were held on Tuesday and their state government functioned until the close of the meeting on Saturday, June 15. Conferences were held during the week in which counselors lectured on the Constitution and the separate branches of government. Citizenship bureaus and courts functioned and bills were drawn up and passed. The boys edited and published a daily paper, The Lone Star Stater, which became the official publication of the organization. The groups were housed in Prather Hall at The University of Texas. The climaxing affairs included the Governor’s Ball, honoring the governor of Boys State and his staff. John Robert Lee Keig, Jr. of Beaumont was elected Governor and Grady Baskin of Cameron was elected as Lieutenant Governor. The boys told the counselors at the close of the program that they had learned more about the operation of the state and municipal governments in the brief period of Boys State than at any other time in their lives."

Carrie Wilcox, Department Historian of The American Legion, Department of Texas

From the beginning of Boys State described above, the Texas Boys State has grown in program and in numbers to meet the needs of the youth of Texas. The present program includes several hundred of the youth leaders of our state each year.

Participants are selected on a competitive basis by the local high schools and Legion Posts throughout the State of Texas.

The staff serving Boys State is made up of men and women of the Legion, Legislators and former Boys Staters who voluntarily give of their time and energies to this program of citizenship development. Most of these men are outstanding in the field of education, law and government who leave their busy jobs and come into Austin to serve their state and nation by helping the young leaders learn better how to perform their responsibilities of a free citizen. The staff will include many individuals serving in the capacities of counselors, junior counselors and administrative staff. Former Boys Staters are called upon to serve as junior counselors or advisors to the Boys Staters. Many have served faithfully for many years and are promoted to the senior status by the leadership team.

Thanks to The University of Texas, Boys State in Texas enjoys the finest facilities in which to carry out the program. The program has received the “red-carpet” treatment each year as it returns for another session. The University of Texas, the State Capitol and the City of Austin go all-out to provide the necessary services to make the program the tremendous success it enjoys from year to year.


American Legion Boys State is designed to bring out the best in America's future leaders. Attendees are selected because they are the best representatives of both their schools and their communities.

This pledge reminds all potential delegates of the honor and value that the American Legion has for and requires of each young man.

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands.

I have never attended The American Legion Boys State.

I sincerely want to attend Texas Boys State, and if accepted, will, to the best of my ability:

  • Take a serious and conscientious interest in discharging my duties as a citizen
  • Obey the rules of Boys State
  • Respect the judgment of the Boys State Director, Counselors and Staff
  • Participate in all activities
  • Seek election or appointment to office, and if elected or appointed, serve that office
  • Keep myself neat and well groomed at all times
  • Avoid the use of profane language and actions
  • Refrain from injurious habits such as the use of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs, and
  • Upon my return home from Boys State, I will make a formal oral or written report to my sponsor(s) and brief next year’s Boys State nominee(s)

Meet The Staff

Paul Barker, MSE

Boys State Chairman

Dr. Halsey Settle

Boys State Committee Member

Dr. Jerry Cheatom

Boys State Committee Member

Gary Flenniken

Boys State Director

Scott Armstrong, MBA

Dean of Counselors

Mark Mayer, J.D.

Assistant Director for Programs

Travis Arreaga, MLA

Assistant Director for Marketing

Dr. Daren Brabham

Senior Counselor for Media Relations

Dr. Aasim Saeed

Senior Counselor for Stater Relations and Education

Mamie Hughes

Boys State Registration

Christopher Wurtz

Assistant Director for Technology and Elections


Tim Borths

Assistant Director for Olympiad

About The Counselors

The Boys State Staff is a 100% volunteer staff. The 100+ member volunteer staff reflects more than 783 years of Boys State experience. Blending this tenure of service with a young, enthusiastic junior staff is what makes the program as in-touch today as it has been for the past 70+ years. Nearly all of the staff attended Boys State when they were in high school, and many counselors are also members of the Legion Family.

Counselors serve in a variety of roles. The Boys State Chairman and Director are supported by junior and senior Administrative Counselors and City Counselors. Their duties are:



  • Sets overall program policy and procedures
  • Conduct the business of Boys State throughout the year
  • Is responsible to the Legion for the program
  • Establish and control the week’s program
  • Recruit the senior and junior staff for the coming year
  • Is responsible to the Legion for the program
Administrative Counselors
  • Maintain daily operations for all functions
  • Provide Registration check-in as the program gets underway
  • Schedule all meeting rooms on campus
  • Supervise the House and Senate
  • Oversee the political and election process
  • Manage the City Olympiad (recreational) program
  • Direct the band and other special afternoon activities
  • Arrange for special seminars and the Visiting Dignitary Program
  • Operate the Clinic
  • Provide computer services for both enrollment and the election process
City Counselors
  • Orient the delegates to the program, monitor their progress, and ensure their enjoyment of the program
  • Maintain 24-hour a day supervision of the Boys Staters
  • Manage the daily schedule by assuring that delegates are where they need to be for each activity
  • Assure that the delegates under their supervision conduct themselves appropriately at all times
  • Recruit candidates for the following year’s Junior Counselors from the current Boys Staters

About The American Legion

The American Legion is a congressionally chartered patriotic, mutual-aid veteran's organization of the United States armed forces. It is the largest veteran organization in the world with 2.8 million members in the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, and several foreign countries. All members are current or former members of the U.S. Armed Forces with honorable service on active duty during periods of armed conflict.

In addition to organizing commemorative events and volunteer veteran support activities, the American Legion is active in U.S. politics. While its primary political activity is lobbying on the behalf of the interests of veterans and service members, including support for veteran's benefits such as pensions and the Veterans Affairs hospital system, it has also been involved in more general political issues.

At the state level, the American Legion is organized into "departments," which run annual civic training events for American youth. Notable among these are, American Legion Baseball, the National High School Oratorical Contest, Scouting, and of course Boys State and Boys Nation.

For more information about the American Legion and their programs, visit the American Legion Department of Texas web site at txlegion.org.

Chairman's Message

Congratulations on your appointment as a Delegate (known by the title "Statesman" during our program) from your high school in the American Legion's Boys State program this year. On behalf of the Texas Department Commander John Hince, I welcome you to this outstanding educational opportunity. I'm certain you will not be disappointed in your decision to attend.
Boys State is an experience that you will remember for a lifetime.  For many, it has been the springboard to careers in public service.  All Statesmen have had and will continue to have an opportunity to develop friendships, camaraderie and to share experiences in a common fraternity that extends long after the program ends.
As one of almost 20,000 young men nationwide who are annually enrolled in the program, you will experience government in a realistic way by participating in it.  Boys State is a leadership action program which teaches the Texas political and governmental structures, shows you how you can become an active participant in the political process to help make both the Great State of Texas and America a better place, and demonstrates that "government is what you make it”.  At Boys State, you will become a member of one of two fictitious political parties that will develop their own political philosophies.  The American Legion stringently avoids ANY bias toward any political party or philosophy. It is YOUR Boys State and YOUR political philosophy!!
Democracy must constantly have citizen involvement. The American Legion is proud to offer this program which emphasizes the Constitutional right for all American citizens.  If "this government of the people, by the people, and for the people" is to continue, the responsibility to consistently participate and vote in all elections rests on your shoulders and other American citizens in your generation.
I challenge you to take advantage of the learning experience this program provides and share it with your friends after you return home.  It is my additional challenge to you to seek out and find the NEXT Boys State candidate from your school when you return home.  With your help, we can "...safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy...”

Statesmen who apply for admission to colleges and universities should consider a Samsung American Legion scholarship that is restricted to high school juniors who complete a Boys State program.  Additional scholarship information can be found at www.legion.org and under the "Scholarships" subsection of the "About" menu, found near the top left portion of the home page of www.texasboysstate.com.  Statesmen that meet all eligibility requirements described on the web site and complete the scholarship application form must give it to their Lead Counselor during the first evening of the program.  Please note -- there is only 1 winner from the State of Texas and then 1 subsequent national winner from all of the states, so please understand this is a highly selective process.  You should also be aware that the winner of the scholarship is almost always a direct descendant of a Korean War Veteran, as scoring is enhanced by this fact in the criteria setup by the Samsung Corporation.
On behalf of the nearly 2.5 million war veterans who are members of The American Legion, my staff and I extend our best wishes for an interest-provoking, exciting and personally rewarding 2018 American Legion Boys State which will begin on Sunday, June 10th and end on Friday, June 15th.
Paul E. Barker
Chairman, Texas Boys State

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