I attended Boys State in 1985. I was selected by my American Legion with another boy (actually they announced it on the schools public address system and we were they only two to show up), we had a breakfast at the Williamson American Legion with our sponsors and off we went. At the time, Boys State for NY was held at Sienna college and a bus got us there.
I can’t remember what county or city I was assigned to but I was roomed with another boy from the other side of the state whose name was “Furena” I believe and we got along. The Marines came in to teach us how to make our bunks, maintain our area, march ext. and we began going through the various elected positions, caucus’s ext. I did not have much interaction with my counselors – I remember one had a red beard and that was it.
Being a drummer I volunteered for the band so got out of certain things to go to practice. I also tried for every position from governor to police chief – lost every single election and in the end I was the only one who did not have a position. So my city put me on trial for possession of “grass” (lawn grass planted under my bunk), put before the “hanging judge” and before we could go to trial Boys State ended. (Feel the love).
Half way through the week Girls State arrived. They were all very well dressed and had on white gloves. They were kept separate from Boys State and we listed to a speech. This was not a good time to be in the band as we were behind them. I remember the election for governor was close – two strong candidates who basically cancelled each other out and a weaker candidate -McManus was his name – won the governor position. We later found out that he was from Long Island and came with an election strategy, “war chest” to include campaign buttons and had been carefully coached and groomed by his Legion Post to win the governorship. A source of great pride and “bragging rights” for them I suppose.
My experience was very interesting. It was good to learn how our state government works to make me a better citizen. Combined with the Eagle Scout I earned that year did much to develop me as an individual who believed in good citizenship, honor and doing your best despite the circumstances. I later applied these to my Army service which I continue to serve as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves to this day.
I became involved as a counselor at the invitation of Mr. Scott Toth – a fellow Army ROTC recruiter at Clarkson University. It seemed a good thing to help spread the word of Army ROTC that is my civilian job and that I missed out on in college since I was influenced not to explore it – something I will forever regret for the opportunities that were lost because of that decision. It has led to many of the participants exploring ROTC and officership – something they might not have thought of as a post high school career path before.
I quickly became hooked and really enjoy Boys State – mentoring the boys, singing the old Army cadences I remember from my enlisted Soldier days on Active Duty as we marched them to the dining hall, caucus meetings ext. and helping the overall effort to build citizenship and state and local government awareness. Unfortunately Boys State was cancelled this year due to COVID 19. I do miss it though, the interactions with the boys and counselors, participating in physical fitness and interacting with the other counselors but I hope it will come back better than ever next year.
Daniel R. Fletcher
Enrollment and Scholarship Officer
The College at Brockport – State University of New York