Skip To Main Content

Main Container Header

Censure at Boys State!

William Benson

I could’ve changed the world. But I blew it. 

In the summer of 2021, I had the opportunity to run for governor of Minnesota. Of course, this was through Minnesota Boys State, but its impact is nonetheless still important. Boys State is a mock government competition organized by the American Legion, a nonprofit veterans organization, seeking to educate young Americans about their government. Every state holds a similar competition whereby rising high school seniors work through various levels of government, beginning at the local level and eventually working their way into state politics. I myself attended Minnesota Boys State this past summer, held for a week at Saint John’s University, along with the likes of Max Feist, Tucker Bakko, James Walsh, Sam Trammell, and Matthew Korf.

Arriving early Sunday morning, I was immediately thrown into the world of politics. That being said, there was one thing I knew I wanted to be: Governor of Minnesota - the ultimate prize. Upon arrival, I was handed a lanyard containing my city assignment - Winona. When I entered my city room, I was greeted by two dozen other high school seniors just as avid about political conquest as I was. After brief introductions, the race for power began. After several hours of learning parliamentary procedure and campaigning, we elected a Mayor, City Council, and Treasurer. After coming in second for the mayorship, I was appointed as City Attorney. From there, our city would serve as our home base of operations, a place we as a small group would meet every night to discuss and recollect.

The next day, we moved to the county level. Each county held two party conventions, one for the Federalists, and one for the Nationalists. Each participant was assigned to one, and each party was what you made of it. Having proved myself to be politically savvy the night before, I was selected to preside over my Federalist county convention. There, I developed most of our county’s platform and set the stage for the next day: state politics, and my chance to be governor.

At our state party convention the next day, we debated a plethora of issues that were being discussed as I campaigned for the gubernatorial nomination. In a room of about 60 boys, we developed our state political platform that would ultimately be used in the state elections. To firmly establish myself as a front-runner for governor, I spoke vigorously on behalf of my policies; however, one issue stood out to me: education policy. Soon, due to my rigid stance on this issue, I would go on to lose the nomination for governor by a small margin.

Walking back to the dorm that night, I sought to reconcile the situation and cut my losses. Heading into my final day, I was elected to the Minnesota Senate, an assignment that started with high hopes, but ended with being both barred and censured by my fellow Senators in a political attack. With that, I had little room to maneuver politically, but I nonetheless persisted until the very end.

It is not an overstatement to say Boys State dramatically changed my perspective of politics. Boys State taught me what it means to listen to and respect the ideas of others, crafting meaningful legislation. It enriched my communication, debate, and public speaking skills. I met a multitude of people who I can now call friends and with whom I plan to stay in contact with in the years to come. I also learned the importance of the governmental process, and that local government is in fact “sexy.” Boys State taught me a slate of invaluable skills, some of which, if I had before, I may be addressing you as Governor Benson right now. However, regardless of the outcome, it is an experience I will never forget as I go into my own future in politics.