A Week at Maryland Boys State

by Nathan Lampshire ‘19

Waking up to an air horn screaming at 0445 hours every day of the week is difficult, especially when you only sleep 4 hours every night. Factor in getting yelled at by a Counselor in Charge, or CIC’s as we called them, and you are in for one hell of a week. What I am describing is Maryland Boys State, a program for juniors in high school that occurs shortly after school ends for the summer. The program is run through the American Legion (U.S. War Veterans organization) at McDaniel College and can seem like a boot camp, but is far from it.

Originally established in Illinois to combat the growing support of a youth communist program during the 1930’s, Boys State’s main function is to establish faith in the United States Constitution. At the beginning of the week, the program simulated a tyrannical dictatorship. Everything we did was monitored and the threat of punishment was constant, whether we committed a crime or not. That’s when our youth leadership took charge. Split into multiple cities (all together forming a state), we drafted and wrote city charters with contributions from every attendee. This was enough to establish our independence and form a republic. From there, we had to elect representatives. I campaigned and was elected for a city counselor’s position, meaning I was involved in the day to day decisions of my city.

For the next several days, we participated in political simulations. One notable attempt to pass legislation involved a proposal to legalize carrying one pound of marijuana without being charged with attempt to distribute (increased from Maryland’s current 10 gram law- §5-602). In addition, we attended lectures from local politicians, lawyers, law enforcement, and much more. Each lecture focused on a different aspect of government and overall established a deep respect for the dynamics of local government. The involvement and dedication by all citizens is the direct cause in the changes you experience in your community. Every lecture was interesting and captivating (despite our overwhelming lack of sleep).

In the later half of the week, we had to elect state representatives, meaning public speeches were approaching. I campaigned for the state comptroller position and gave several speeches in front of all 171 attendees, in addition to the large number of American Legion members. All attendees are leaders and have impressive resumes, so the pressure was on. I fought through several rounds until it came down to me versus one of my roomates. The trick to winning this election was giving an excellent speech and throwing in some humor to captivate the boys’ attention. I fell short by several votes. Nonetheless, it was an amazing experience.

In the end, we visiting the state house, got to celebrate by attending several events at the local American Legion posts, and marched in a police escorted parade through town. The CIC’s, who initially yelled at us for just about everything imaginable, told us they were proud of our accomplishments and they saw growth in our leadership and teamwork capabilities.

The take away from the experience is that: 1- the government will fail to function without the continuing support of EVERY citizen, 2- you need to step up and take leadership in everything you do, and 3- marching in formation is not easy. With that in mind, I firmly believe I am a better person and citizen than before the program and highly recommend anyone to embrace this opportunity to better themselves and their community.