DIRIGO BOYS STATE


A program of The American Legion, Department of Maine
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Dirigo Boys State


Boys State is summer leadership and citizenship programs sponsored by The American Legion for Maine high school juniors. Boys are usually nominated by their high school during their junior year. Boys State programs began in 1937 and are held in each of the U.S. states (excluding Hawaii) usually on a college campus, within that state. In Maine, Boys State was founded in 1947 and celebrates its 69th anniversary session this year at the Thomas College campus in Waterville, Maine.

In general, program participants are divided into subgroups referred to as cities. The citizens of each of these towns and cities where they elect mock town and municipal officials and representatives to the mock state legislature - the Dirigio House and Senate. Many programs, including Maine, also have a county level as well. The participants also elect state officials, such as governor, and other state-level officials mirroring the State of Maine's legislature. The legislature meets to organize, elect leaders, and to pass bills, in a way that is similar to how the Maine House and Senate operates. DBS tends to have a more traditional educational focus, providing speakers and training throughout the week, while the citizens are running the mock government activities all week. The Dirigo program also provides an opportunity for its citizens to participate in judicial branch of our government with the selection of the Dirigo Supreme Court Justices; of which one is selected as a Chief Justice. The Dirigo Supreme Court hold mock trials, the participants volunteering as lawyers. We provide other opportunities for that include a journalism component that represents the fourth estate in the political process. We offer extra-curricular activities that include a Dirigo band and competitive athletic competition between municipalities.

Boys State is staffed by a skilled and experienced instructors that include alumni, Legion members, and community leaders who volunteer their time and effort. Administrative costs are defrayed by their the state Legion organizations and local businesses.

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Selection


Selection is highly competitive and the population of students attending represents the top talent from across the state. Although recruitment procedures vary, Boys State participants are often selected with the help of high school principals or guidance counselors. Participants are typically between their junior and senior years in high school to qualify.

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Any junior who is interested in learning about town and state government qualifies for Boys State. Information pertaining to the program should be made available for all boys in the junior class; giving students at all scholastic levels the chance to apply. Priority should be given to attitude versus scholastic achievement, although both qualities are desirable. Involvement, interest and participation should be the main focus during the selection process. All applicants chosen should be informed that they are being recommended to the local American Legion Post and each individual should commit to attending prior to an application being submitted. The final selection of students must be done by the local American Legion Post using the names supplied by the school. If your school district does not have an American Legion Post, we ask the school to be responsible for carrying out the selection process and obtaining sponsors.

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Benefits


Because the hundreds of students at any given Boys State represent the top talent of that age year, being elected to a high office, such as Governor, at the event can be an important distinguishing achievement for college or Military Academies admissions. Additionally many colleges and universities offer scholarships and other awards to those attending Boys State program. Also, The American Legion offers The Samsung Scholarship which is an endowed scholarship fund of $5 million to be administered by The American Legion.

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During Boys State


Once there, students typically engage in a number of political activities such as running for office, electing officials, drafting and debating bills, and making motions. DBS offers City and County courts, and a state Supreme Court, with the participants acting as lawyers, judges, plaintiffs, defendants, and jury members. Additionally, there are lectures and workshops for students to fully immerse themselves in government and politics. Dirigo Boys State programs divides the into two political parties: Nationalists and Federalists. Each political party establishes an official party platform voted on by its members. Participants are elected to a variety of offices including House of Representatives and Senate seats, executive officers (Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State). Participants also run for Town, City and County offices such as Town Moderator, Selectman, School Board, Mayor, Clerk, and Councilman and many more.

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History


The creation of the Boys State program in 1935 is credited to Hayes Kennedy, who was an instructor at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law and Americanism Chairman of the Illinois Department of The American Legion, and Harold Card, the Department Boy Scout Chairman and junior high school instructor. Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card became concerned about the youth attending political indoctrination camps in the late 1930s.

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Documentation provided by various Boys State programs across the country refer to these as "Young Pioneer Camps" and alternately describe them as either fascist- or communist-inspired. Since the Young Pioneer Camps was the name of a youth program based in the Soviet Union that made inroads in the U.S. in the early 20th Century, it is likely that these left-wing movements are what Kennedy was responding to, and not the growth of the radical right (i.e., fascism). Kennedy felt that a counter movement must be started among the ranks of the nation's youth to stress the importance and value of a democratic form of government and maintain an effort to preserve and perpetuate it.

The Illinois Department of The American Legion approved Hayes Kennedy's and Harold Card's project and in June 1935, the very first Boys State in the nation was held on the grounds of the Illinois State Fair.

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Boy's Nation & Other Awards


Since 1947, Dirigo Boys State program sends two delegates to Boys Nation in Washington, D.C.. These delegates are selected by a nominating committee comprised of Program staff and are selected based solely on program participation. The event endeavors to teach delegates about the processes of federal government in the United States of America, through taking part in a mock Senate and mock elections of a Boys/Girls Nation Senate President Pro Tempore and Secretary, Vice President, and President, attending lectures, forums, and visiting governmental institutions and historical sites.

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Prominent U.S. Alumni


Prominent alumni of the Boys State programs across the U.S include Astronaut Neil Armstrong, News Anchor Tom Brokaw, Garth Brooks, U.S. President William J. Clinton, Actor Ken Howard, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, NBA coach Phil Jackson, Actor Mark Wahlberg, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, Associate Justice US Supreme Court Samuel Alito, Conservative Radio Host Rush Limbaugh, New York Governor George Pataki, U.S. Senator for Nevada Harry Reid, College Football Coach Nick Saban, Actor Scott Bakula, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, Entertainment Critic Roger Ebert, Singer Jon Bon Jovi, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, U.S. Senator for South Dakota Tom Daschle, U.S. Senator for Mississippi Trent Lott.

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Prominent Maine Alumni


Prominent alumni of the Dirigo Boys State program include Gov. John McKernan (71st Governor of Maine), Gov. John Baldacci (73rd Governor of Maine), Sec. of State Matthew Dunlap, State Representative Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford), State Representative Henry Beck (D-Waterville), Cumberland County Commissioner Peter Feeney (deceased), Cumberland County Manager Peter Creighton, Town of Scarborough Councilor Patrick O'Reilly, Old Town School Board Member Lee Jackson, Town of Belmont Selectman Robert Currier.

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Past Directors of the Program

  • Shawn Babine (2017-Current)
  • Paul Jacques * (2002-2016)
  • Anthony Tirabassi (1995-2001)
  • John Cunningham (1993-1995)
  • Paul Murphy (1984-1993)
  • Eric Duplissea (1980-1984)
  • Jim Horan (1976-1980)
  • James Wright (1971-1975)
  • Kenneth Hayes (1967-1970)
  • Dr. Walter Schoenberger (1964-1966)
  • Dr. Eugene Mawhinney (1961-1963)
  • David Fink (1959-1960)
  • Gerald Grady (1958)
  • William Sezak (1957)
  • Gerald Grady (1953-1956)
  • Paul Fullam (1952)
  • Gerald Grady (1951)
  • Milo Lude (1950)
  • George Allen (1947-1949)
* Longest serving Director of the Dirigo Boys State Program

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