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Memories From The Museum

May 10th, 2016 by

I would be remiss lest I honor Arkansas Boys State this year with a column.  Like its sister organization, Boys State is open to high school students who have completed their junior year in high school.  It takes place in the summer before the senior year and is a week-long adventure in civic education.  Boys State offers a practical, hands-on look at politics and government as students seek election at the state, county, and city levels and then engage in the governing process. Participants learn about the responsibilities of a wide range of offices, as well as the interaction between the various offices and the various levels of government.

Once the boys are settled in at Boys State, they begin an intense week of creating and operating a mock government, while also visiting governmental and historic sites of interest in the area. Participants learn about the functions of the various elected and appointed governmental offices at the city, county, and state levels, while also learning about the judicial branch of the government. The boys organize campaigns and run for various offices. After the campaign process is completed, the newly elected office holders create legislation and then work to get it enacted. It all makes Boys State week long sessions very busy, although abbreviated, and offers a realistic view of the political and governmental system, which leaves all participants better  informed of the realities of politics and government when they return home.

Each Boys State delegate is sponsored by a local post of the American Legion or some other civic, fraternal, religious, or patriotic organization. In selecting the nominees, the organizations look for boys who have demonstrated “outstanding qualities of leadership, character, scholarship, loyalty and service to their schools and community.” This is not a partisan organization, but is intended to enhance the boys’ understanding of how the political and governmental processes work.  Throughout the program’s existence, many of Arkansas’s leading political figures, including governors and the state’s U.S. senators, have  attended or addressed the events, urging participants to continue their interest in, and commitment to, the political process.

Because of its large numbers of participants, and its impressive alumni lists, Arkansas’ Boys State is considered one of the most successful chapters of the Boys State program.  The national program began in 1935 under the leadership of the American Legion.  Legionnaires Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card of the Illinois American Legion are credited with the original idea.

Arkansas’ Boys State program was established in 1940. Its alumni members include such names as President Bill Clinton, who also attended Boys Nation in 1963.  There he met President John F. Kennedy, a meeting memorialized in a now legendary photograph. Other Arkansas participants who have gone on to distinguished careers in government include Governor Mike Huckabee and former White House chiefs of staff Mack McLarty (of the Bill Clinton administration) and Jack Watson (of the Jimmy Carter administration).  I’m sure there are others.

The annual event was originally and long held at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock (Pulaski County).  Most recently Boys State has taken place at University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway (Faulkner County), with the final legislative sessions taking place in the Arkansas House and Senate chambers in the Arkansas State Capitol.

This year both Girls State and Boys State will be held the first week in June.  I will be honored to be helping with Girls State.  I know both groups will have a great time – though it might not be considered “cool” to admit it.  You are a select, favored group! Enjoy yourselves in a once-in-a-lifetime setting! Be blessed!

Incidentally, I learned on Thursday that we have added at least two more enthusiastic, Girls State/Boys State helpers and advocates in the area.  New UAM Chancellor Karla Hughes and her husband spent many years in Missouri and worked with the two organizations!  See!  Girls Stare and Boys State alumni are everywhere!

I’d like to hear some feedback from you fellows who attend this year too! Email me at Sheilla.lampkin@arkansashouse.org.  Have a great time!!  Inspire your younger friends to follow your footsteps!!

 

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