More than many other Americans, U.S. military veterans fully appreciate our democratic form of government.
With that in mind, the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary for more than six decades have sponsored the Boys State and Girls State programs to help young people understand and get engaged in the democratic process.
Boys State of Kansas is under way this week at Kansas State University, and Sunflower Girls State just completed its run at Kansas University. Every year, hundreds of high school seniors-to-be from all across the state participate in these programs sponsored by American Legion posts in Kansas. By the way, Boys State was held at KU until a building renovation in 1990 caused the program to be moved to K-State; it never returned to Mount Oread.
During a very full week of activity, they hear from public officials and get the feel for what it's like to be actively involved in local and state government. By running mock campaigns, they learn what it takes to form and convey a political message to other people. Once elected, they see all the details involved with running the three branches of state government and the bureaucracy that goes with them. It's a great exercise in teamwork and leadership.
Two Kansas teens from Boys State and two from Girls State will have the good fortunate to represent the state at Boys Nation and Girls Nation in Washington, D.C. This year, one of Girls Nation delegates will be a Lawrence High School student.
Girls Nation was described as a Kansas American Legion official as a "life-changing experience" for those who participate. While the national event is a special honor, every participant in the Kansas Boys and Girls State events should go home with greater knowledge and appreciation for the democratic process in the state and nation. Even if they never run for office, what they learn about the process of campaigning and serving in public office will make them better voters and citizens.
Fostering students' involvement in and enthusiasm for government and the election process has been part of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary mission since these programs were founded in the 1930s. It's a great gift to the individual students involved and a wonderful contribution to the future of Kansas.