Friday, June 13, 2014

Day 6: Nats Take Top 3 Offices; March to the Capitol and Head for Home

The final day of Texas Boys State must begin with a note of congratulations to the top elected officers for 2014. We are proud to announce the election of Arthur Dixon, governor, Elton McIntosh, lieutenant governor, and Christian Green, attorney general. All three are from the Nationalist Party. Dixon, in this capacity as governor will return to Texas Boys State next year to preside over the 2015 session.

Meanwhile, what started as a week of uncertainty on Sunday is finishing up as a lifetime of memories for statesmen. The delegation will conclude the week with a march to the historic Texas State Capitol building after breakfast. Along the way, the winners of the races for Agriculture Commissioner, Comptroller of Public Accounts, Commissioner of the General Land Office, and Supreme Court of Texas will visit their respective offices and given tours by office staff.

Once at the Capitol, the lieutenant governor will preside over a session of the Boys State Senate. Unfortunately, the Senate will be unable to meet in the Texas Senate Chamber due to renovations. However, Texas Boys State staff was able to secure a room in the Capitol allowing the Senate to conduct their session. It might not be the actual Senate Chamber, but the Boys State Senate will still have the memory of a lifetime by being able to say they met in the Texas State Capitol building.

The Texas House Chamber is open for use by Texas Boys State, allowing the 120 members (three from each of the 20 cities) of the Texas Boys State House of Representatives. Statesmen in the House will be able to sit at the same desks used by the 150 members of the Texas House of Representatives and conduct a session of the Boys State House.

Friday’s activities culminate in the final general assembly of the 2014 session of Texas Boys State, held in the House Chamber at the Texas State Capitol. During this final session, statesmen will hear final remarks from Boys State administrative leadership and enjoy the session’s awards ceremony. The final awards will go to two statesmen selected by Texas Boys State administrative leadership to attend Boys Nation in Washington, D.C.

After the awards ceremony concludes, only one thing remains: pronouncing the statesmen graduates of 2014 Texas Boys State. The statesmen will receive a certificate of completion to take with them, signifying they have successfully completed the Texas Boys State program and joining a select group of young men over the past 74 years. Statesmen will then march back to Jester Center and be released to their parents to return home.

And, just like that: 2014 Texas Boys State comes to a close. What began as 920 strangers from across the Lone Star State concluded with 920 statesmen, each having their own unique experience, but each also having the collective experience of going through the session together. Congratulations to the Texas Boys State, class of 2014! We wish you the best in your future endeavors.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Day 5: The Big Debate, The Big Election, and The Big Show

Statesmen are settling into their daily routines nicely. But, given the fast-paced nature of the program, once a statesman feels comfortable with his daily Texas Boys State routine, the program is almost over! But, it is the whirlwind nature of Texas Boys State that tends to burnish positive memories in these young men’s minds for the rest of their lives.

After breakfast on Thursday, all statesmen are headed to the LBJ auditorium for the first of two general assemblies today. The morning assembly features final speeches from the Federalist and Nationalist candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and governor. Both parties met last night and agreed upon the rules for the morning assembly. Speech time for each candidate was determined, as well as the rules for debate, candidate cross examination, and questions from the Boys State press corps. The assembly moderator is the current Boys State editor-in-chief, a position elected from within the press corps.
 
The morning assembly is the final time statesmen will hear from their parties respective candidates. Polls for the general election open immediately following the assembly, allowing statesmen to cast their ballots for the top three elected positions at 2014 Texas Boys State. The results for the general election will be revealed at the evening assembly.
 
Unique activities for Thursday include the 2014 Texas Boys State College Fair. Representatives from a number of colleges and universities will be on hand to share information about their respective institutions with statesmen. The colleges and universities are from across the United States.
 
Following an early dinner Thursday, statesmen will travel with their cities to mall in front of the historic University of Texas tower for the retiring of the colors. This evening's ceremony will not feature visiting dignitaries, but will offer statesmen a unique opportunity to enjoy a flag ceremony in a picturesque location.
 
After the colors are retired on the UT mall, statesmen will go to the final general assembly at the LBJ auditorium. There, statesmen will learn the results of the general election and observe the swearing-in of the respective winners. The final act is one of the most entertaining events of Texas Boys State: the talent show. To say that there will be a wide variety of "talent" on display would be a gross understatement. Statesmen, counselors, and staff are in for a treat.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Day 4: Election Home Stretch and Legion Night

The 2014 version of Texas Boys State hit the halfway point Wednesday morning as statesmen headed to the polls for primary elections in all races except House and Senate. The early election of the upper and lower chambers cleared the way for members to get to work on legislation Wednesday. However, numerous races remain undecided at the county and district levels.

A unique twist on the activities featured a morning rotation period allowing statesmen not involved in other activities to attend three panel discussions. One panel included a discussion on party politics featuring candidates from the Green and Constitution parties. The second panel included a presentation from lobbyists and their role in the political process. The final panel discussion featured staff from The Texas Tribune. Ayan Mittra, assistant managing editor, Neena Satija, environmental reporter, and Morgan Smith, education reporter, took numerous questions from statesmen about their roles in the "fourth estate".

Afternoon activities offer statesmen a number of opportunities, including band, city olympiad, tours of The University of Texas-Austin campus. Members of the Boys State Legislature do not participate in these activities because the focus of their Texas Boys State experience now becomes their legislative activities. Another unique opportunity is the annual Texas Boys State talent show, which always proves to be one of the highlights of the week. Tryouts for the show continued on Wednesday.

Wednesday's evening activities include a full slate of visitors. The final slate of visiting dignitaries includes one Texas Supreme Court Justice, one state senator, three state representatives, congressional staffers, political candidates, and others. The dignitaries meet with mayors from the various cities before appearing before all of Texas Boys State at the lowering of the colors in the evening. The visiting dignitaries will then address the cities for a few minutes and even have the option of enjoying dinner with statesmen at Jester Center West dining facilities.

After dinner, statesmen will attend another general assembly at the LBJ Auditorium. Tonight's keynote speaker is Brigadier General Joe E. Ramirez '79, the commandant of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University. Gen. Ramirez is a renowned public speaker, known for sharing his passion for service with audiences around the country. In the audience of 920 statesmen are, doubtless, numerous future cadets at Texas A&M. These young men are sure to enjoy hearing from their future commandant.

One special highlight of tonight's activities is the title: Legion Night. The American Legion, Department of Texas, is the key sponsoring organization of Texas Boys State. Without the department's generous support, Texas Boys State would not be the training ground for future leaders it is today. It is our honor and privilege to host numerous Legionnaires who have not only served our country with dignity, but also support Texas Boys State so it can continue to influence the lives of hundreds of young men across the state each year.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Day 3: Party Conventions Continue, Back to LBJ for Keynote Speaker

Following Monday's election of the Texas Boys State House and Senate, it was off to party conventions and the election of officials there. Neither the Federalists nor the Nationalists were able to elect their full complement of whips and a speaker on Monday, so it was back to work on Tuesday.

Statesmen not elected to the legislature returned to their respective parties to discuss platform items. Next up, it was time to move on to speeches from candidates for statewide elected office, including governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. Though the list of activities does not sound like much, the party meetings are a necessary part to introduce statesmen to the painstaking process of electing government officials.

Part of the process of teaching 17 year-old young men about being responsible citizens and governing means also recognizing and respecting their need for leisure time. After lunch, and between the lengthy party sessions during the morning and evening, statesmen have a few hours to participate in the City Olympiad or the Boys State Band.

The Visiting Dignitary program continues Tuesday, June 10, with a long list of prominent Austin-area citizens tentatively scheduled to appear. You can find the full list by clicking here. Dignitaries are first introduced by a mayor, or mayors, from Boys State city, or cities, at that evening's lowering of the colors. From there, the dignitary is escorted to a classroom where they address statesmen from those same cities.

After dinner, statesmen will again trek to the LBJ Presidential Library Center to hear a keynote speaker. The scheduled speaker for Tuesday is Professor James Olson, a senior lecturer at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. Olson teaches courses on  intelligence, national security, and international crisis management. To learn more about Mr. Olson, you can read a brief biography on the Bush School's website. Following Mr. Olson's presentation, it's back to the state party conventions where statesmen will hear speeches from candidates for attorney general, lieutenant governor, and governor.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Day 2, Evening Post

It was a busy afternoon at 2014 Texas Boys State.

Rain posed a threat to the initial Olympiad competition but ultimately cleared out in time for statesmen to participate in football, basketball, and dodgeball. This was the initial competition but all is not lost for the cities that did not won today.

On the political front, the Boys State Legislature was elected, allowing them to get to work much earlier in the week than in sessions past. The Federalist and Nationalist parties sorted out their rules and platforms. Later in the evening, the parties gathered to elect chairmen who will lead their party's conventions as they nominate candidates for statewide elections.

The Monday evening activities included visits from Austin-area dignitaries, including Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick and former attorney general candidate Eric Opiela. The evening speaker at the LBJ Auditorium was Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams.

Day 2, Morning Post

Day 2 started early for the statesmen on Monday, June 9, as they assembled with their cities at 6:30 a.m. and proceeded to breakfast. The schedule is a packed one because the Texas Boys State Senate and House of Representatives are elected early in the week. This means the statesmen got right to work immediately following breakfast.

Before lunch, the statesmen heard speeches from House and Senate candidates before breaking out into individual precinct (city) meetings by party, essentially dividing the precincts in half. At the precinct meetings, statesmen elected a precinct chair and voting delegates to their party's county convention. Also chosen were members of each party's Rules, Platform, and Campaign committees.

The county convention immediately followed as statesmen elected a county convention chair and voting delegates to their party's state convention. The immersion into the election process continued as the state party convention commenced following the county conventions.

If it sounds like a plethora of committees, meetings, and politics, it is! All of these go back to the heart of the Texas Boys State program: learn by doing. The senior and junior counselors understand that their role is to relinquish the operation of the program to the statesmen. The counselor's role is to provide guidance and oversight, not to undertake individual tasks. This puts the statesmen in a prime position to learn by doing.

2014 Texas Boys State: Off and Running to Learn by Doing

Welcome to the official blog of the 2014 Texas Boys State! Here, we will keep you up-to-date with the events and happenings at this year's action-packed week.

To learn more about Texas Boys State, click here.

The program got underway Sunday, June 8, as 920 statesmen checked in to the Jester Center dormitory on The University of Texas campus in Austin. Statesmen began their experience with a meeting in their cities Sunday afternoon. From there, it was off to dinner before the first Texas Boys State assembly in the sunken garden at Jester Center.

At the assembly, statesmen learned two integral parts to the Boys State program: proper respect for the United States flag and the Boys State song. You can see a video of the retiring of the colors on Sunday by clicking here. Click here to see the statesmen singing the Boys State song for the first time.

After the first general assembly, it was off to city orientation meetings where statesmen in each of the 20 cities elected mayors for each. Two other positions elected were color guard and olympiad director. The two members of the color guard for each city play a vital role in city pride and logistics. The flags, bearing a city's name, make sure statesmen are always with their city as they move about the University of Texas campus.

The olympiad directors coordinate their city's athletic programs. It is their responsibility to make sure their city's teams are present for their respective contests, which include seven-on-seven football, five-on-five basketball, and dodgeball. The cities compete at a cumulative level, meaning the outcome of their games is only part of the equation to determine an olympiad champion. Sportsmanship and originality in team presentation are also integral parts to the overall olympiad program.