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Good Morning Boys State: Everything's Different Here

The delegates adjust to Boys State

The first assembly of 2012

The first day of American Legion Jersey Boys State is complete and the second day has begun. The delegates are still a little unsure of where and when each event is taking place but they're definitely more comfortable than they were a day ago. Most delegates yesterday have a look of apprehension as they moved through the program. Very few of them look at ease. There is no swagger.

There is no swagger because everything's different here. The system of tests and grading they're so familiar with after twelve years of education does not exist here. Social capital accumulated by years of interaction with peers does not travel to ALJBS with them. They are on their own, away from parental support, often for the first time ever. Each delegate starts at zero, wearing the same white cotton T-shirt with blue lettering and trim.

Boys State is patriotic program that teaches American civics but it is also a strange socialistic experiment. One Sunday in June, we take a thousand boys of different backgrounds from every corner of the state, bring them to one location, start them with the same advantages, and wait to see what happens in one week. One of them becomes their leader on Wednesday, elected governor by his peers. Others find their place in sports or band or working on the city manual. There are many different ways to proceed through the program; each delegate will find their own this week, as thousands have before.

Everything's different here. Technology has brought the outside world closer to Boys State but not inside. There is and always will be a separation between what happens here at Rider University and what happens in the homes, schools, and other places of our delegate's lives. Father's Day was the start of a new adventure, similar to previous ones but distinctly its own.

Every year brings another set of apprehensive delegates, on their own for the first time in a strange setting. The purpose and structure remain the same but the faces change, and that's what makes each session fun.


Although Sunday is heavy on information, there were a number of highlights.

Thank you, Ev: Longtime staff member Everard "Ev" Eaton received a plaque commemorating his forty-fifth years of service on the Boys State staff. Born in Massachusetts in 1924, Ev served in the Navy in World War II, married Neva "Ilene" Eaton in 1946, and worked for United Airlines for over 35 years. He is the proud father of seven children and has eleven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and serves as Commander of the Mantz Cavalier American Legion Post 293 in Warren, NJ. Ev has served in many capacities at Boys State and currently helps in the Boys State store. We appreciate Ev's many years of service and were pleased to recognize him yesterday as his family stood beside him.

Speakers: A trio of speakers headlined a busy slate of excellent guests. During the first assembly, Brigadier General Michael Cunniff and John Hunt, a retired Major from the New Jersey State Police, addressed the delegates; Hunt delivered the challenge to the delegates. At the evening's assembly, Congressman Leonard Lance, a longtime friend of the program, spoke to Boys State once again. We are honored to have such wonderful speakers each year and welcomed all the men to campus.

Politics: Each city received a description and list of urgent issues at the afternoon assembly, which they considered when choosing a type of city government. Each of the five types are used in New Jersey municipalities and impact the way the city can resolve its issues. Later that night, the parties from each city met to choose candidates for the morning's elections, elect party officials, and discuss their platform for the issues facing each city.


Main Event: The Monday evening assembly features the Honorable Herb Conaway, (New Jersey State Assemblyman and former ALJBS Governor), Thomas Kean, Jr. (New Jersey State Senator and Minority Leader), various members of the New Jersey Senate and Assembly, and more. Assemblyman Conaway and Senator Kean are no strangers to ALJBS, having been here multiple times. Delegates will learn about the role of the legislature, then practice what they have learned in the County Party Meetings immediately after the assembly.

originally posted June 17, 2012 1100