The young men at American Legion Boys State hit the ground running Monday, already learning things that will lay the foundation for the rest of their week at Southwest Minnesota State University. "We've learned about parliamentary procedure, how bills are passed, how government works. We learned about the flag burning ceremony," said Jacob Moe of Ghent.
"A lot about parliamentary procedure. I didn't know much about that at all," said Dylan Demuth of Marshall. "A lot about basic government, where local governments get power from the state constitution."
Hank Shea, a professor at the University of St. Thomas, told the boys how he wore braces through his junior and senior years and had to wear an apparatus around his head during the day, even when he went to camp where other kids made rude comments about it. He asked the Boys Staters how they should react in a situation like that: be quiet, or say something to stop the situation.
Photos by Jodelle Greiner
Ryan Vesey asks a question after keynote speaker Hank Shea addressed the Boys State attendees Monday morning. Shea, a federal prosecutor for 20 years, answered several questions about sentences for crimes.
Shea, a federal prosecutor for 20 years, took questions from the boys about the discrepancies in sentencing and the lengths of the sentences.
"Most of the problems are from those addicted to drugs," Shea said. "Some people need to be locked up, but the vast majority can be rehabilitated."
How that will be handled in the future was up to the boys, he said.
"I'm looking at the leaders of our communities right here in this room," Shea said.
David Way, one of the counselors, explained how the boys would be evenly split into two political parties: the Nationalists and the Federalists. They can't change parties, but they can vote any way they want, based on their personal opinions, and don't have to vote a party line.
Way also explained parliamentary procedure, rules for platform planks, and what a delegate's job is.
Tom Johnson, another counselor, explained city caucuses, county convention and state convention, and both encouraged the boys to run for office.
"Tomorrow's a big part of how your week's gonna be," Johnson said.
"You'll hear that all the time: be active," said Way.
"Where does the state get its government?" asked counselor Drew Hood.
One of the boys correctly answered, the Constitution, specifically the 10th Amendment, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Counties and cities are governed by The Dillon Rule, and have "only the powers the state gives them," said Hood.
"Minnesota has interpreted The Dillon Rule a little differently," Hood said. "The Supreme Court of Minnesota has given certain powers to the cities."
The 87 counties in Minnesota, no matter what size, "all provide the same services," Hood said.
"County government touches almost all aspects of our lives," he said.
With that in mind, the boys went back to the dorms - the "cities" where they will be living during the week - and decided whether to run for a city office.
Russell Howland, originally from Eagan and the temporary clerk of "Duluth," was accepting the applications from the others in his city and filling out his own application for the mayor's position.
"I want to run for mayor because one of the people at my school said the best way to have fun is to run for things and not sit back," he said.
He filed for the position of mayor because "I like talking in front of people."
Demuth is running for mayor of "Minneapolis" because "I figured it would be fun, get the most out of the experience I can," he said. "I talked to kids from Marshall who were here and they said to be as involved as I can. The more involved you are, the funner it is."
Moe is running for city council of "Minneapolis."
"There's five positions open and I need to participate in this," he said.
Tyler Carlsgaard of Mahtomedi decided to run for city council in "Duluth."
"I want to have a say in what we do," he said. "I feel that (council) is a good place. Also puts me in a position if someone moved out (to a county or state office), to slip into one."
Jacob Demarais of Howard Lake was running for treasurer of "Rochester."
"I've been treasurer in other organizations," he said. "It's fun and I already know what I'm doing."
Ryan Merry of Lindstrom was running for the council in "Rochester."
"It's interesting to me," Merry said. "I'm not very experienced in stuff like this, so I'll get the layout and get experience. Exploring out there."