Although always patriotic in tone, this year's American Legion Boys' State, the first held since the World Trade Center attacks, will stress a pride in citizenship to more than 650 young men who attend American Legion Boys' State at Tennessee Tech University May 26-June 1.
Just as groups of Tennessee high school juniors have been doing since 1949, they will learn how to make contributions to their communities as future leaders by putting in a week of hard work and fun studying state government and politics.
During the week, participants are immersed in learning state government by running a mock 51st state, Boys' State. They will organize political parties and establish city, county and state governments by election, complete with primaries and political campaigns.
"Boys' State promotes a respect for our government, our leaders and our military," said Marc Burnett, TTU's vice president of student affairs, who has worked with Boys' State since 1984 and is in his second year as director. "Four members of my family served in the armed forces, and I am honored to be able to contribute this service."
Boys' Staters will receive qualified instruction and advice during the week from elected state officials, including Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell who will speak Saturday, June 1. Lewis Ringger, 2001 Boys' State governor, will address participants when they arrive Sunday. NASA astronaut Gregory C. Johnson will speak to delegates Monday, May 27. Judge Frank G. Clement Jr. of Nashville will preside over a special program on Wednesday.
Teachers, administrators, and community leaders nominated this year's group, one of the largest Boys' State gatherings in its 38-year history at Tennessee Tech, based on their academic talent and their potential for leadership. When they arrive on campus, the young men are assigned a mythical city, county and political party. Boys' Staters learn from practical classes like "Judge for Yourself," a program where several state lawyers and judges present a hypothetical situation and help students work through the legal aspects of the case.
Community leaders assisting with government instruction include Billy C. Rodgers, senior field advisor for county technical assistance service of the University of Tennessee; former state representative Jerry Jared; Mary Virginia Maddux, former House Index Clerk; Richard Grogan, Cookeville Vice Mayor; Cookeville attorney Jeffrey Jones; and Maj. Gen. Jackie D. Wood, Tennessee Adjutant General.
The week is not all politics and speeches. Boys' Staters can show off their talents in athletic events, including a swim meet and an all-star basketball game. Others will take the stage for a talent show or perform with the Boys' State band.
At the end of the week, the young men's families can join them for a picnic on campus, and special guests can attend the Boys' State governor's inaugural ball. On Saturday, participants will gather for a final parade, band concert and inauguration ceremony for their new governor. Mayor Purcell will speak during the ceremony.
American Legion Posts across the state sponsor delegates and fund the activities held at Tennessee Tech.