The American Legion is dedicated to strengthening America. We believe there is no better way to accomplish this task than to work with our nation’s youth to prepare them for what lies ahead. The American Legion, through its youth activity programs, plays a leading role in the development of tomorrow’s informed, responsible citizens. Programs such as Boys State and Boys Nation are our finest examples of citizenship instruction for youth.
Boys States are quite uniform in program structure, though each Department (state) of The American Legion is responsible for conducting its own Boys State. Forty-nine states conduct a Boys State program each year, and more than 28,000 young men participate in these civic workshops. Through a weeklong program, the young citizens learn how city, county and state governments function by actually doing the job themselves. Eligibility for all Boys State citizens requires them to be juniors in high school, with one year remaining before their graduation. This allows the young man the opportunity to apply his “practical experience” in government to his senior year in high school, and at the same time endorse and promote the program among fellow students.
About Boys Nation
Every year, American Legion Departments select two outstanding Boys State graduates to represent them at American Legion Boys Nation held in Washington, D.C. It is here that they are introduced to the structure and function of the federal government.
Boys Nation is designed to instill in each delegate a deep loyalty to America and provides practical insight to the operation of the federal government. The week of government training in the nation’s capitol combines lectures and forums with visitations to federal agencies, institutions, memorials and historical spots in and around Washington. Actual participation in the political process is highlighted through the week’s activities to include the organization of party conventions and the nomination and election of a Boys Nation president and vice president.
The first American Legion Boys Nation (then called Boys Forum of National Government) was held on the campus of American University, Washington, D.C., August 4–9, 1946, under the sponsorship of the Legion’s National Americanism Commission. It was officially adopted as a major youth activity by the 1946 National Convention of The American Legion in San Francisco, California. Subsequent action by The American Legion Convention in 1949 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, changed the name to “Boys Nation.”
From 1946 through 1951 and from 1969 to 1985, the Boys Nation program was conducted at American University. From 1952 through 1967, Boys Nation was held at the University of Maryland. The site of the 1968 program was Georgetown University. In 1986, the program was moved to its present site at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia.
At Boys Nation, each delegate represents his Boys State as a senator and participates in senate sessions. The youthful senators caucus at the beginning of the session, organize into committees, and conduct hearings on bills submitted for their consideration. In addition to federal legislators and representatives of federal agencies, organizations and lay leaders of national distinction participate in Boys Nation. Boys Nation senators are instructed in the proper method of handling bills according to the rules of the United States Senate.
During the visit to Capitol Hill, Boys Nation Senators meet and converse with elected senators and representatives from their home states. Boys Nation visits the Flag House, Fort McHenry and other historic sites in Baltimore, Maryland, and participates in a very solemn and dignified wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. While at Arlington, the boys also visit the Marine Corps Memorial and the grave of President John F. Kennedy. Some of the other visitations made during the weeklong session are the FBI, the Department of State, the Lincoln, Vietnam, and Korean Memorials, and the White House.
For more information, visit the Boys Nation website.