News Archive

Good Morning Boys State (Wednesday, 6/20/12): The Great Coup

Highlights from Tuesday include an incredible political story

Speakers from the Wall Street seminar

There were a lot of delegates in the Pierce City lounge as I walked towards my room after breakfast. It was after 8:00, close to the time when they needed to line up and go to the debates for their county and legislative candidates. There were about forty white-shirted delegates standing and listening to Senior City Counselor Shane Mata talk.

Anyone who's worked with Shane or been in one of his cities knows his penchant for impromptu speeches. Good ones, too. Shane has a special ability to simultaneously know where he wants to go and figure out how to go there along the way without confusing the two, like circular breathing for public speaking. When he gets into a flow, there's not much to do besides stand back, listen, and watch him hold the delegates' attention, which was happening at that moment.

"And oh by the way," he said, "let me tell you about the governor who pulled a Keyser Soze to get the nomination."

I'm almost to the far door of the lounge but I stop. I've heard the story before, a few times, but it's been a while since I heard it and I'm in the mood.

"Who here has seen The Book of Eli?" asks Shane. A number of hands went up. "Ok, you know how you get to the end and you find out how the guy hasn't tipped his hand the whole time? That's what happened here. The guy pulled the greatest coup in the history of American Legion Jersey Boys State."

"There's three guys who have all gone out and gotten signatures for governor. The deadline's coming. They're all in a room trying to decide who should get the signatures and this guy will not, under any circumstances, tell how many he has. He keeps talking about, 'if you get elected, what are you going to do? What do you want to do?' They keep trying to come around to his number but he won't tell them."

"So it's coming down to the wire. They've got to turn in the signatures. He tells them, 'if you sign over to me, I'll give you this cabinet position and this cabinet position. So these guys sign over their signatures to him. One has forty-two and the other has twenty-something. (The minimum is forty-five.) How many does he have? Three. He has three signatures. He got elected and started naming off his entire cabinet at the podium, because they'd all agreed to sign over the signatures."

"He never told them how many he had. It's like negotiating about a car: 'I'll tell you my price, after you throw in the rims and sound system and something else.' You never tell them your price. If they come back to it, go to something else they're interested in."

"It's all about forming coalitions and that comes down to 'what can I do for you?' You guys know that book I told you about called Getting to Yes? They studied this at the Harvard Negotiation Project. This guy did it here."

This is American Legion Jersey Boys State, where anyone can become governor, even with three signatures, and where a teenager and a counselor with twenty years experience can talk casually about a 2010 Denzel Washington movie while discussing negotiation jiujitsu.


There were no assemblies yesterday, but there were plenty of good reasons for that, including the eighty-school college fair that we mentioned yesterday in this space. Here's a few more highlights from Tuesday.

Seminars: There were four seminars, focusing on careers in engineering, the military, politics, and public administration. Almost twenty people volunteered their time to speak and answer questions from the delegates. We also were able to host a CPR certification course during that time. This has traditionally been one of our most popular seminars, and we are fortunate to two sessions for this course (the other will be held tomorrow).

Politics: County and legislative elections were held today in the Student Recreation Center. There were no paper ballots. Delegates voted on real electronic voting machines like the ones used all across New Jersey. After the results were announced, the newly-elected officials met and began conducting business. Then, at night, the entire Nationalist and Federalist parties met and elected a State Party Chairman, who will help run the campaigns for Governor and Boys Nation Senator. Also, we would be remiss if we did not thank Joe Scarpa, former mayor of Rochelle Park and former ALJBS delegate, for running a seminar for mayors and city councilmen on Monday.

D-Day Presentation: Thank you, veterans, for your service. Thank you, American Legion, for sponsoring this wonderful program. We were glad to hear your stories and honor you last night.


Main Event: The Wednesday evening assembly is one of more fun moments of any ALJBS session. The Boys State band kicks off the assembly with some spirited renditions of popular songs, standards, and the official Boys State song. Chuck Wiley, the nationally renowned reporter, will speak to the delegates afterwards. Chuck has an incredible resume (We're not kidding: read it yourself.) and has delivered a powerful message to the delegates for 22 years.

originally posted June 20, 2012 1100