“A week that shapes a lifetime.” It is near impossible to say one significant event can change your life. To have the audacity to make that claim you need the ability to back that claim up.
Without a doubt, the staff of Boys’ State believes that they can back that up. Boys’ State is not a normal summer camp where you go to relax, but rather one that seeks to build up who you are and your beliefs.
The moment you receive your letter of acceptance and town assignments that journey begins. Each town represents a moment of American history captured in time by Boys’ State. Boys’ Staters are placed into a variety of towns: Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, Alamo, Manila Bay, Bataan, Belleau Wood, Gettysburg, and Yorktown. Each town represents a moment in American history where a sense of nationalism has persevered. That same sense of nationalism Boys’ State attempts to foster in each of its participants. With me, that began the moment I met Riley Knust, 2018 Cornhusker Boys’ State Governor. Riley stood on the frontlines of the registration process, not afraid and showing his confidence in the ability of Boys’ State to change one’s life. That continues throughout the registration process, meeting legionnaire after legionnaire, each having stood up for what they believed in and fought to continue that sense of nationalism. The appearance of that confidence is further highlighted when I met Connor Flairty head counselor for Manila Bay. You can never question that Connor and the other counselors of each town do not believe in the organization they are working with. They laugh, they joke around, they are strict but underneath that all they care about each and every single Boys’ Stater.
At the end of registration, the process of getting to know one and another begins. Personally coming from Omaha, I had never met people from cities like Sidney, Nebraska. However, when one attempts to create that sense of unity, that Boys’ state does, one must break down the geographical barriers that separate each participant. Manila Bay achieved this through the toilet paper icebreaker. The Manila Bay counselors in their ever caring sense decided to mess with us and tell us that our one-ply toilet paper would have to last the night till the bathrooms were restocked. Only until each town member had taken ample toilet paper did they reveal the truth. Unsurprisingly, UNL does stock its bathrooms with toilet paper (that is still one-ply), but also each piece of paper we took was the number of things each member of Manila Bay would have to say about themselves. This activity truly brought the gravity of the moment to the minds of each Boys’ Stater. Although we are one town, we do not have the same experiences or beliefs but that does not mean we cannot be united.
Finally was the initial meeting. I am not going to say that it was not long or at points boring, because as all things that meeting was. However, that does not mean that the meeting itself was not valuable or important. As I said earlier, to make the claim that you can change the life of someone you need to back it up. That meeting sets the tone for the week that will change your life. With each speaker confidence in this belief is more and more visible. Knust speaks yet again and with each pause, in his speech, it is visible the clear impact that Boys’ State had on him. Michael McClellan, 2018 delegate for Boy’s Nation, gives a poignant speech on how the motto of Boy’s state rings true. Co-Chief Counselors Scott Day and Aaron Zabawa act as in-person examples of the fraternity that is Boys’ State Alums. With each speaker it is clear, Cornhusker Boys’ State does not believe it will change lives, it knows it will change lives, it is just a matter of time when the Staters themselves reach that same understanding.
As I set forth on this journey I am just as fearful as I am excited about the experience that is about to begin. Just like my fellow Boys’ Staters I am ready and looking forward to “a week that shapes a lifetime”.
This morning, delegates interested in the judicial system attended a legal school of instruction. Now, the hands on experience begins. Delegates argue cases and engage in mock trial simulations. Later in the week, delegates will have the opportunity to be appointed to the Cornhusker Boys State Supreme Court. They will hear cases in the actual Supreme Court chambers at the capitol.
An Interview with 1987 alum JOHN A. MAISCH June 2017
Image: John Maisch (Right) appearing with Don Wesley and Frank LeMere at Cornhusker Boys’ State 2017
John A. Maisch was elected Nebraska Boys State Governor in 1987, representing Bunker Hill. He would represent Boys Nation later that summer. A Grand Island Senior High graduate, Maisch went on to earn a business degree from Midland University (Fremont, Nebraska) in 1992 and law degree from the University of Tulsa College of Law in 1995. Following a year in private practice, Maisch became an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma in 1996. He returned to private practice in 2001, where he focused on commercial real estate transactions. In 2008, Maisch became the General Counsel to the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement (ABLE) Commission, where his responsibilities included prosecuting liquor stores and bars that sold alcoholic beverages to minors. He served as the full-time ABLE Commission’s General Counsel until 2012, when he became an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at the University of Central Oklahoma, a four year, public university with over 16,000 students in Edmond, Oklahoma.
Maisch has been a member of several civic organizations, including the Oklahoma City Downtown Lions Club, where he served as club president in 2000, and the Downtown Rotary Club. He helped draft consumer protection legislation requiring Oklahoma audiologists and hearing aid dealers to provide refunds to the hearing impaired in 2001, and legislation that reformed Oklahoma’s alcoholic beverage laws in 2015. Maisch’s most recent work involved directing and producing a documentary about Whiteclay, Nebraska, an unincorporated town of less than 12 people in northwestern Nebraska. Located 200 yards from the dry Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Whiteclay’s beer stores sold approximately 3.5 million cans of beer per year. The documentary, Sober Indian | Dangerous Indian, premiered at the REEL Recovery Film festival in San Francisco in 2014, and has been screened throughout the United States. The documentary was also screened at a film festival in Cape Town, South Africa.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOYS’ STATE MEMORIES?
A: “My father was a Korean War veteran, so I remember being honored to have been selected to participate in American Legion Boys State. Several Grand Island Senior High School professors played an important role in my election to serve as Boys State Governor: My English professor and debate instructor, Professor Cassey, who helped me sharpen my debate skills, and my economics professor, Professor Watkins, who loaned me a copy of a Milton Friedman book on the school voucher program. I was particularly thankful to my campaign manager, Raj Komenini, who was incredibly encouraging and motivated me to take the high road against my general election opponent, Norfolk’s Cory Barr. Shortly before leaving for Boys State, I remember being inspired by a 60 Minutes segment on a young father from Delaware, Joe Biden, who had successfully run U.S. Senate after the death of his wife. With a few exceptions, such as the proliferation of global terrorism and climate change, I suspect that today’s Boys State senators are debating basically the same topics that we debated 30 years ago. At Boys Nation, I was honored to get to greet President Ronald and Nancy Reagan on the South Lawn of the White House as they prepared to board a helicopter to Camp David. One month later, Nebraska Governor Kay Orr would invite me and the Girls State Governor to join her and President Reagan at a BBQ lunch at a North Platte ranch.”
Q: WHAT IMPACT HAS BOYS’ STATE MADE IN YOUR LIFE?
A: “American Legion Boys State reinforced in me the importance of sacrifice and public service. I chose a career in law, in part, so that I could position myself to serve others, especially those in the dawn, dusk, and shadows of life. Having a legal career has allowed me to serve as a voice to those who often don’t have a voice. I have been particularly grateful for the opportunity to work with another Boys Stater, Native American activist Frank LaMere, over the past five years. Co-starring in my documentary, Mr. LaMere and I have traveled across the country raising awareness about the humanity crisis in Whiteclay. During the past three years, I’ve had the chance to return to Nebraska Boys State to speak about the importance of multiculturalism, social activist. and public service.”
By Aaron Zabawa
“It’s the relationships you make along the way” (In Memoriam)
As a delegate of Boys State 1987, I reluctantly made my way from Norfolk to Lincoln. When we arrived in Lincoln, we were treated to warm greetings, a t-shirt, name-tag, and a hand shake. That was the first time I met Alden Johnson, the Education Director of Boys State. Later, I taught and coached at Lincoln High, where “Aldie” Johnson was a living legend. As Alden ended his career, I was just beginning mine. He was an outstanding trailblazer, leader and coach. Over the years, Alden Johnson and my son Alden Zabawa were frequent buddies at Cornhusker Boys’ State. The Legend and his namesake were often found in the back row sitting together and sharing stories that remain between them. Alden celebrated his 90th birthday this past summer with a surprise party at a golf course here in Lincoln. Alden Zabawa’s mother, sister and I were able to attend, and he later told me how glad he was to see us. As Alden’s health began to decline, my son and I made multiple trips to visit. Late in the evening the night before he passed away, the Johnson family allowed us to visit one last time. We shared a tear together, “rest coach, we got this”. While it is odd for me to look from the stage and not see him sitting in the back row of Kimball Hall, I know he is still with us in the most meaningful of ways. “Face the worst, believe the best, do your most, forget the rest” he would always say or write to me. Okay. It is not goodbye, but so long for now, “rest coach, we got this”.
Coach Alden “Aldie” Johnson (10/4/1926 – 11/17/2016)
An annual tradition at Boys’ State is the Friday trip to the state capitol. The legislature debates in the Warner chambers, the judicial branch hears cases behind the bench in the supreme courtroom, and delegates meet senators for a unicameral update. Additionally, a highlight is exploring the magnificent capitol building and catching a view from the observatory.