One of the most amazing aspects of Cornhusker Boys’ State is the opportunity that the young men have to take a break from politics and participate in either sports or news writing. This down time reminds the boys that not everything has to be about politics and having fun is important. The Boys’ State staff is continuously looking to add additional recreational activities so the boys can find a place to fit in and feel more included. In this line of thinking, last year the staff tested out the idea of having a new position called the town historian.
The town historian is an opportunity for one selected person from each town to write long-hand pieces about the history of both their towns and of Boys State as a whole. These individuals have an opportunity to sit down with multiple staff members, alumni, and important political figures to learn and write about their history with Boys’ State. The boys then have the privileged opportunity to stand in front of their peers every night and present what they learned about their town and the people they interviewed.
Michael McClellan had the chance to be the first historian for Gettysburg in 2017 and was asked to co-lead the historian program as a councilor the next year. He found that this unique activity allowed him to learn more about the sacrifices veterans had made for our country and about the mission of the American Legion as a whole. Michael stated, “I gained a whole new perspective during my time as a historian, and this week long activity has truly shaped my life in more ways than one.”
Michael and the entire historian staff wants to thank the alumni for continuing to support the program that allows them to take advantage of this opportunity.
Athletics: Why They Matter at Cornhusker Boys State
While at Boys State, young men apply themselves in different ways but athletics allow some of them to show their skills no matter how loud or quiet they are. Athletics have been around since the conception of Boys State and there have been many memories created because of this. In my interview with Larry Frost, the athletic director of Boys State for the past fifty years, he listed off a few moments from memory which stood out to him. Frost says, “One year we weren’t able to have the track meet due to rain and that gave us quite a headache.” On a personal level, one of his favorite moments included him winning the Outstanding Athlete award in 1964 as a member of the town of Alamo. A couple of past recipients of the Outstanding Athlete award include important names such as Gerry Gdowski, who later became a Nebraska Cornhusker playing football under Tom Osborne from 1987-1989. Another name which carries some weight is Ben Zajicek who played as a Wide Receiver for Nebraska in their 2001 National Runner Up season. While only one person is recognized as the Outstanding Athlete, many different boys participate in the athletic activities: sand volleyball, softball, football, basketball, and the annual track meet.
Frost says that the reason why Cornhusker Boys State is special for having sports is because of the friendships which form due to the competition. To this day, he has a friend who he hunts and fishes with, whom he met at Cornhusker Boys State. On the question of whether or not athletics have ever been considered getting rid of, Frost says there have been no complaints from former Boys Staters to get rid of athletics and with the amount of good that comes from athletics. Frost also says that the track meet is probably his favorite event to watch.
On the topic of facilities, the improvement over the years has been incredible. In the beginning, the boys at Boys State were only allowed in one gym for all activities. As well as using one gym for four sports, the track meet was originally run on a concrete track. Years later, all four sports are given their separate facilities. This vast improvement in facilities has led to further participation.
Throughout all of the lessons learned in Boys State, some of the most important, according to Frost, are learned through sports. Learning how to communicate and cooperate with teammates is a must in order to be successful in athletics. The best of the best are able to seperate themselves and show their leadership skills. Most importantly, building friendships through the competition and keeping them throughout, not just Boys State, but for the rest of their lives.
By Tony Maras & Dustin Hovanec
Boys State has been a premier leadership camp ever since its founding in 1935 by two Illinois legionnaires, Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card. This program was created in response to the founding and growth of the socialist Young Pioneers camps in the Soviet Union. The initial goal of Boys State was to help high school juniors learn the rights and privileges of enfranchised citizens, with a structure similar to city, county, and state governments. These goals and principles have continued throughout its eighty plus year history. However there have been some changes since its founding. To uncover what these changes are, we interviewed Bob Craig. Although he never attended Boys State when he was in high school, he became active in the American Legion, and subsequently in Boys State. When he started helping in 1980, he was the office manager. From then on, he has been a crucial member of the Boys State and Boys Nation staff. We asked him in what ways Boys State has changed over the years.
He said that the biggest changes have been the physical location of Boys State. Today Harper Hall presides as the chief headquarters of the program. However, it used to be held in Abel Hall. There were roughly 40 boys per town, consequently they had two more towns to make up for this. These towns were named after the battles of Midway and Guadalcanal. Abel Hall has two identical towers, which meant that one county would inhabit each tower. For a brief period of time the location was at Sandos Hall. A common theme had arisen over the years: Boys State needed to be ready to adapt at a moment’s notice to be successful. And a change in building meant a change in structure.
When Craig joined in 1980, there were only about 6 people running the show. Since then, the staff has grown immensely, allowing for even more growth and change. But what has brought about the most change has been the onset of technology. Again, Boys State needed to be able to adapt to a changing environment and lately it has been a technological environment. Nine to ten years ago the money system along with Political Action Committees (PAC) was implemented, in response to the current political culture that fully utilizes the PAC system. This system allows Boys’ staters to donate funds to candidates they support. If Boys State was to remain an accurate representation of the government it had to adapt to technology. This adaptability is also evident in the trips to the capitol building. Renovations throughout the years have dictated where they can go and what rooms they could go into. They used to be able to tour various department offices. But like many other events situations arise and the program must change.
While certain aspects of the structure of Boys State have changed, the values of Boys State haven’t. The values of creating enfranchised citizens who, in the future, will take an active role in our government, whether it’s being on a local city counsel or running for the U.S. Senate. The adaptability of Boys State has been its greatest asset. Whether it be the physical location of the activities or how it is run, Boys State has kept up with the times. Those who have the privilege of coming to Boys State in the future might see a very different Boys State than those who attended in 2018. No matter what, the greatness of this program that shapes future leaders will never change.
The 77th session of Boys State is beginning a new program – to uncover the past. At least one citizen from each of the 8 towns are known as the Historians and have began looking at their town’s namesake. The historians will also be conducting interviews with current staters and alumni. If you have an idea for a story for them, please find your town Historian. Find out the history of your town.
Historian Tom Lundberg of Belleau Wood