74th Virginia Boys State comes to a close at RU
For the fourth year in a row, Radford University has hosted some of the Commonwealth’s finest young leaders at the 74th American Legion Boys State of Virginia.
Nearly 700 male high school juniors from across Virginia spent the week on campus exploring the ins and outs of local, state and federal government. They participated in mock legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, chorus and recreational programs.
Among the week's activities for Boys State delegates were opportunities to meet personally with Virginia legislators and other officials.
Highlights of Boys State included presentations by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring. The officials lauded the participants for their dedication to citizen leadership in the Commonwealth. Area state representatives Del. Joseph Yost '06, M.S.'08, Del. Nick Rush and Del. Sam Rasoul participated in the program.
Governor McAuliffe addressed the assembled Boys State on June 22 in Bondurant Auditorium.
He shared guidance from his career that began as a teenage entrepreneur and has led to his current position as Virginia’s 72nd governor.
“I’ve started about 30 different companies in all walks of life. I always tell young people that first and foremost you have to take a lot of risks in life,” McAuliffe said. “Follow your passions. Do what you want to do. You can never be afraid to fail.”
Prior to announcing the results of the 2016 Boys State gubernatorial election – won by Mount Vernon’s Yosaph Boku - McAuliffe reflected on the nature of leadership.
“It is doing the morally right thing, no matter what the consequences are,” McAuliffe said. “I ran for governor to move Virginia forward and that is what I continue to try and do. I would also say to you that you have to make the tough decisions.”
Radford University President Penelope W. Kyle addressed Boys State participants at a welcome ceremony on June 19.
"This is the fourth year we have hosted Boys State,” Kyle said. “We are thrilled to have the program come here. You are some of the very best guests to visit our campus. You are respectful, intelligent, resourceful and eager to learn. We want you here so that you can become the next generation of leaders to keep the Commonwealth on the forefront.”
In addition to the president's welcoming remarks, the Boys State participants heard a keynote speech from retired Navy Rear Adm. William Cobb, who asked the attendees to return home to their communities after Boys State and set examples of good citizenship and pride in their country. Cobb attended Virginia Boys State in 1962 and represented the Commonwealth at Boys Nation, experiences he is still influenced by today.
Some 2016 participants forged friendships they know will last beyond Boys State.
“You make a lot of connections for the future here,” said Michael Ferguson, a student at Kellam High School in Virginia Beach. “You might end up meeting the next attorney general.“
“Or maybe even a president,” added Zachary Abdallah, of Peninsula Catholic High School in Newport News.
As part of the week's events, elections were held to simulate the political process. Participants voted to fill Boys State offices, such as delegates, senators, judges and mayors. During the last round of elections at Boys State, participants elected members to the highest state offices of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
A variety of dedicated candidates made the election process an exciting one, Abdallah said.
“Everyone here is great and so smart,” he said. “We’re all taking it seriously. It’s hard work, but it will pay off as we realize all the problems to solve in our communities and the struggles politicians will go through.”
Boys State attendees are students who have successfully completed their junior year of high school and have at least one semester of high school remaining. They are chosen by local American Legion posts to attend based on outstanding qualities of leadership, character, scholarship, loyalty and service to their schools and community.