Even if you really are not interested in politics, Sam Jordan and Evan Oberg feel that you will be hooked on it after a week of fun and education at Minnesota American Legion Boys State. The two Morris Area High School juniors spent June 13 – 18 at St. John’s University near St. Joseph, learning the ins and outs, good and bad, ups and downs and everything in between about local, county and state politics.
When they arrived on Sunday night, the attendees were divided into towns. Evan and Sam were not in the same town which is through random draw. The towns consisted of 22-24 boys with two towns per floor in the dorms. Evan’s town was Minneapolis and Sam’s town was Duluth. Each floor is then named a county with two towns in each county.
The boys were then encouraged to start running for offices, at the local, county or state level. The local level had a mayor, city clerk, attorney and city police officer. Sam was appointed the City Attorney for his town. The county level had more offices and Sam decided to run for District Judge. To do this he talked to the mayor candidates for the towns in his county and was eventually elected by the county as District Judge.
One of the jobs of the District Judge was to preside over trials. Sam presided over four trials in one day which meant he stayed up late into the night reading up on the backgrounds for each one. Sam stated that they were somewhat “whacky” trials but also incorporated some real life scenarios. For example, one of the trials involved counselors who were suing the city they worked for because the city enacted a law that they had to run around town with their shorts down. The judge decided the outcome and this trial ended up in favor of the counselors.
With each new day, the governments grew and soon it became “our boys state” they explained. That meant that the counselors had less rule and the cities took over making decisions. There were a few things that had to remain consistent such as meals, assemblies and quiet time. However, other decisions were made by the groups.
Sam stated that his town was led in a military style. They were required to do some exercises and memory type questioning. One of these included lining up along a wall and having to recite each person’s name in the line. If you missed one you had to answer a history question. Evan’s group did activities like Duck Duck Grey Duck instead of exercising.
Just as they were getting settled into their towns and counties, the boys were split randomly into two parties. One group was the Nationalist Party and the second was the Federalist Party. These groups held caucuses and sent delegates to represent them and vote at the state level. They were given six hours to discuss their platforms and how they wanted the delegates to vote.
In Evan’s group they had two coups or rebellions. When a leader left the room, he handed the gavel to another but when returning that person refused to hand it back. All the other members then threatened to step down if he did not return the leadership to the first person. Evan stated that it was interesting as they figured out how to handle these types of situations.
Many of the big issues the party faced were similar to today’s issues such as legalization of marijuana. Evan spent an entire day writing a bill about safety equipment and then one person in the party didn’t like some of the wording so it was nixed. The boys quickly recognized how some would come in and try to ‘bully’ others into voting their way.
On the final night the state senators, representatives and Governor were announced. They noted that the person elected Governor had not held any other office so he had more time to devote to campaigning for this office. He was a very nice kid and made friends easily.
Sam and Evan made a lot of great friends during the week and plan to continue to keep in touch with them. Evan’s town plans to hold a zoom meeting in August just to visit before school starts. There were also many leisure activities. Evan won his city’s arm wrestling contest and Sam had the best batting average for his softball team. The days were jam packed with activities.
They would highly recommend boys State to next year’s juniors and plan to encourage others to attend. They also want to thank history teacher Peg Rinkenberger for approaching them with the opportunity and to the Morris American Legion for sponsoring them. They will be sharing their experience with the Legion members and classmates in the future.