In 1946, the American Legion held its first Boys Nation Convention at American University in Washington D.C. Every year since, the organization has returned to teach the two representatives from each of the 49 Boys States, excluding Hawaii. This year, Moorestown’s own Ashrit Verma was elected as one of New Jersey’s Senators and was able to attend Boys Nation in Washington D.C.
“It was very cool,” said Verma. “I was selected as Senator at Boys State and then from there I was invited to D.C. In D.C., we focused on national and congress instead of municipal and state. I met a lot of people and got to see a lot of great things.”
For clarification, the American Legion Boys State is a selective educational program that instructs U.S. high school students on the inner workings of government at the local, county and state level. According to the American Legion website, Boys State was founded in 1935 to counter the socialism-inspired Young Pioneer Camps.
It is operated by students and they are elected to various offices in government. Boys State activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law-enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, choruses and recreational programs.
Boys Nation however, takes the two representatives from each of the 49 Boys States to Washington D.C., where the young leaders receive an education on the structure and function of federal government.
At the event, each delegate acts as a senator from his Boys State. They then organized into committees, conduct hearings on bills submitted by program delegates, organize party conventions and nominate and elect a president and vice president. Verma actually was able to finish third in the presidential race.
“While I was there, I learned a lot,” said Verma. “I learned about leadership and personal type of leadership. I learned what people find appealing from me. I worked on my public speaking. I just learned a lot about myself.”
“I think the biggest thing I learned is that people living in New Jersey are not that much different than people in North Dakota,” Verma continued. “While I was there, you see similar patterns and while it may seem like the country is divided because of the media, you see that people in government are not as divided as you may think. People from both parties are working hard to make things better.”
According to Verma, everyone has the mindset to be president and the week allowed him to know even more about how government works. The week of training included lectures, forums and visits to federal agencies, national shrines, institutions, memorials and historical sites. The senators were even able to meet with elected officials from their home states such as Congressman Andy Kim.
“As the New Jersey representative, it was very cool to meet Congressman Andy Kim,” said Verma. “ I encourage the youth to get involved with Boys State. Since the youth doesn’t have a vote because we aren’t old enough yet, the most important thing is to get educated. Especially in this political climate and society. People will always have issues over something and no matter how hard it is to discuss, politics is the method to solve it. This allows you to bring it up and engage in those conversations.”