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Boys' State

posted Oct 16, 2012, 11:34 PM by Golden Knight   [ updated Oct 17, 2012, 8:39 PM ]
Posted in Campus

 By Ricardo De La Torre 

 I attended the seventy-fifth session of the American Legion California Boy’s State held at California State University Sacramento, California. The objective of Boys’ State is to educate the youth of the United States about city, county, and state level government, and to encourage them to participate in them. The American Legion, which sponsors Boys’ State, seeks “to foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism,” as stated in the Preamble to the Constitution of the American Legion. In order to accomplish these goals, delegates are left in charge of assembling and operating the “mock” state of California for a week. The experience offers the delegates of Boys’ State a true insight into how the government works and what it means to be an American citizen. Through this experience the effectiveness, corruption, hypocrisy, and censorship of government were manifested.
    A true understanding of government develops after its assembly and operation. The city level government and its campaign maintained their purity because of strong personal influence of candidates upon voters. In essence, the city government was the most honest and effective. Representation was made possible through the close-knit community of city government, and the personal connections held between its members. If there were to be any integrity in the system, it vanished with the introduction of a common currency, the Philo. The state government was rampant with corruption because of the lack of personal contact between its government and people, and reliance upon the Philo. The delegates that held state or other high positions tended to be the most fraudulent because of their ambition, distance from the people they were to represent, and self-gratification. Therefore, the Philo inadvertently engendered separation between the government and its people and facilitated corruption, proving to be detrimental to the democratic process. Perhaps this is a valid representation of the government of the United States.  Ironically, some of the most prized aspects of American Society, such as individualism and free enterprise, proved to hinder the integrity and effectiveness of government.
    Boys’ State is restricted in its ability to run a secular mock government by the American Legion, since sponsorship by the American Legion means an inclusion of religious rituals. The first two words of the Preamble to the Constitution of the American Legion are “for God.” The General Assemblies opened and closed with a prayer from a Catholic priest. The purpose of Boys’ State, however, is not to unify Church and State, but to emphasize government participation. The American Legion also promotes an immense amount of nationalism. The voice of the individual was extinguished by the chanting of “U.S.A!” at the General Assemblies. This overwhelming nationalism censored the thought, expression, and action of many delegates. The newspaper experienced censorship as well, but the encouragement and support from the former delegates present proved to gain enough leverage for the voicing of opposition. Although nationalism was never detested in the newspaper, the rejection of opening and closing prayer and the expression of other important issues were publicized. The limitations imposed by the American Legion may have negative consequences, but they also serve as an accurate representation of the struggles within the governmental process. Thus, Boys’ State accomplishes its mission of offering delegates an accurate experience of government.