A McPherson High School student was honored at the recent 2019 session of the American Legion Boys State of Kansas Leadership Academy to be one of the two delegates to represent Boys State of Kansas as senators at Boys Nation later this summer in Arlington, Virginia.

Zachary Wash, a senior-to-be Bullpup, was elected along with Ian Gould from Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, to represent Kansas as voted on by their peers at the recent State session.

Approximately 405 young men from across the state of Kansas, all of whom will be entering their senior year of high school in the fall, participated in the 2019 session of the American Legion Boys State of Kansas Leadership for six days beginning on June 3 and concluding on June 8. It was the 82nd year of the ALBSKLA event. The event was held on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan.

Boys State is a “learning by doing” political exercises that simulate elections, political parties and government at the state, county and local levels. It does this while also providing opportunities to lead under pressure, showcasing character and working effectively within a team. ALBSKLA provides a relevant, interactive, problem-solving experience in leadership and teamwork that develops self-identity, promotes mutual respect and instills civic responsibility.

“I was excited for the opportunity to be at Boys State,” commented Wash. “I have to thank my grandfather, Roy Wash, for pushing me to apply for the chance to go. I respect my grandfather as he has been active with the American Legion after serving our nation in the Korean War. I have always had an interest in politics and many will say I am opinionated, plus I have a background in debate.”

When asked about how he made his way to the top of the candidates for the opportunity to go to Boys Nation, he noted, “I wasn’t overly surprised, especially after I performed well in two mock trials as a district attorney gaining reimbursement financially for the county I represented.

“I also had an opportunity to sing and play my guitar at the talent show where I sang ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon, which seemed to be a hit. I was then one of 10 candidates for Boys Nation and that meant we had to give a three-minute speech and then give a two-minute response during a question and answer period. The speech I gave referenced how ‘none of us were anything special, but it was how we would rise up under certain circumstances that would show how we took on responsibility and perform that would prove to be the difference among us.” 

Wash, along with Gould, will be joining representatives from each of the 49 Boys State programs across the country (Hawaii does not have a Boys State program). They will receive an education on the structure and function of federal government at the national Boys Nation event scheduled from July 19 through July 27 at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia.

Each delegate will act as a senator from their Boys State and the young lawmakers will caucus at the beginning of the session before organizing into committees and conduct hearings on bills submitted by program delegates. The senators will learn the proper method of handling bills according to United State Senate rules. The participation in the political process is emphasized throughout the week, including organization of party conventions, and nominating and electing a president and vice-president.

Other government training during the week will include lectures, forums and visits to federal agencies, national shrines, institutions, memorials and historical sites. During their time on Capitol Hill, the Boys Nation senators will meet with elected officials from their home states.

Boys Nation was originally called Boys Forum of National Government and was convened at American University in Washington, D.C., in August of 1946. The 1946 American Legion National Convention adopted the event as an official youth activity and three years later it became American Legions Boys Nation. Since Boys Nation began, numerous graduates from the event have been elected to public office, including presidents, congressmen, state governors and state legislators.

“I am very excited about going to the national event because one, I will get out of Kansas,” Wash said. “And two, it gives me an opportunity to visit the Nations Capitol while having an opportunity to meet young men from throughout the nation as well as getting the experience of seeing the sites and sounds of our government, and that includes the chance to meet our Kansas state senators and congressmen as well as the president.”