A 21-gun salute capped off a week of education and campaigning as more than 230 high school boys graduated from Boys State on Friday afternoon.
Boys State, sponsored by the American Legion, is a yearly event in which high school students run a mock state election. Weber State University has hosted the the event for 28 years.
“It was created to supplement high school civics instruction, and one of things about Boys State is it provides accelerated exposure to public officials that we believe they won’t normally get in their individual high schools,” director of Boys State Ken Hoyal said.
Starting on Monday, the boys are divided into “cities” where they are introduced to other high school students from all over the state.
“They make tons of new friends right from the get go, because they’re placed in your own cities, their own dorm room. And they become lasting relationships,” Lt. Gov. of Boys State Cole Combe said. “All these kids really want to be here so they engage themselves in the activities.”
James Gillespie graduated from Boys State 51 years ago and has returned as a counselor. He said that his experience at Boys State helped in his career as as sheriff, saying that it helped him understand how bills were made, how bills are sponsored and how they get enough support to pass.
“It gave me a compete understanding of how the legislature actually functions,” said Gillespie.
Gillespie said that he thinks the interaction between the boys is the most important as they make new friends and he told the boys to have fun and run for as many offices as they could.
In addition to running for office, the boys listen to speakers lecture on government and politics. Utah 1st District Congressman Rod Bishop spoke to them early in the week.
Bishop talked about the importance of the government, and how the government affects everything by regulating food and water. He said that’s why it’s important for people to be involved in the process
The elected Gov. and Lt. Gov. will return next year, along with the two Boys Nation senators who get to represent Boys State in Washington.
Akbar Khan from Hillcrest High School was elected as the one of the Boys Nation senators last year. He said that when he came to Boys State he didn’t want to run for it until he saw a picture of Bill Clinton when he served as a Boys Nation senator, shaking hands with John F. Kennedy.
He said that the campaign trail led to many sleepless nights.
“You’re in a situation with 200 very intelligent and like-minded people so it’s hard to get sleep anyway,” said Khan.
Combe echoed that running for office was hard. He said that when he and Gov. Landon Weeks got to the debate, it was a lot of pressure to get in front of everyone and answer questions about politics, but they got through it.
Khan said that his experience at Boys State the last two years has deepened his understanding of the government. Khan said that thanks to Boys State, he knows the future of America will be in the best shape it ever has been.
“If you look that changing dynamic of society, technologically and culturally, it’s important to understand the principles of self-government not only for our nation, but for communities and for individuals,” said Hoval.