HELENA – On Thursday morning, more than 100 high schoolers taking part in Montana American Legion Boys State heard from one of the program’s most successful alumni – Gov. Steve Bullock.
Bullock, who attended Boys State and Boys Nation in 1983, addressed the delegates during their visit to the Montana State Capitol. He said the skills and the relationships they develop during Boys State will prove valuable for years to come.
“There’s something about a program that selects people based on their leadership potential,” he said. “Decades down the road, I have no doubt that you’ll see some of the folks you met while you were here.”
Bullock encouraged the students to find public issues they feel passionate about and get involved with them.
“Decisions are being made every day that impact 17- or 18- or 20-year-olds,” he said. “At some point, you’ll have to think ‘Can I just let those decisions be made, or do I have some interest or obligation?’”
After Bullock’s speech, he and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney met with Norris Blossom and Reed Miller, the students elected as Boys State governor and lieutenant governor.
“I think it’s amazing to see how this program really pushes leaders,” said Blossom. “Gov. Bullock was so inspiring, and his speech was really cool to see. It was an amazing experience getting to talk to him as well.”
“I think it gives a certain element of reality to the things that we’re doing here, that seems that this is very much a possibility,” Miller said.
Blossom is from Helena and attends Capital High School, while Miller is from Kalispell and attends Flathead High School. Both agreed their time at Boys State will help them in the future.
“It’s been so enlightening to experience how government works, a little more in depth than I ever have before,” Blossom said. “I think especially coming to the Capitol and meeting the actual state officials has just been a really amazing experience, and I’m thankful I could be here to have it.”
“I really encourage a lot of other current freshmen and sophomore boys and girls to seek out their counselors, their principals,” said Miller. “They’re more accessible than you think, and they can give you access to this incredible program.”
The American Legion has been sponsoring Boys State programs for more than 80 years, to teach students about the rights and responsibilities of active citizenship. Delegates are organized into mock cities, counties and a single state. They take on leadership roles and practice governmental processes, from city and county commission meetings and court hearings to state legislative sessions and elections.
On Thursday, the delegates remained at the Capitol after Bullock’s address to debate and vote on laws for their simulated state government.
Boys State wraps up on Friday. Starting on Sunday, high school girls will gather in Helena for Girls State.