An open letter to American Legion Post 114 members:
My name is Brandon Eldridge and about a month ago, I returned from Boy's State at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg. I am writing today to thank you for believing in me, believing that I am a leader of this great city and that I will someday receive the torch and could quite possibly take part in leading this nation.
When I was first told of Boy's State by my school's counselor, I was uneducated about the program and was not looking forward to spending an entire week away from civilization as I knew it. I then began to ask around for information which led me to seniors who made the six-hour trek the summer before. Their stories only increased my skepticism of accepting the invitation in the first place, but being faced with a possible college bill of up to and including $100,000, I humble accepted, seeing nothing but dollar signs on the other side of the rainbow.
Quite honestly, the first few days of Boy's State did nothing but frustrate me. What could possibly be considered good or fun after a six-hour bus ride, anyway? Once again, however, I kept on trucking and enrolled in MBS Law School. I paid attention with the very best of my ability so that if I should ever be called upon by a fellow city man or even a counselor, I should be ready. On Wednesday, with our city government already fully in action and our county government nearing proficiency, the Bar Exam was administered and everyone passed with flying colors. Creativity is the main theme of any lawsuit that originates at Boy's State, and proving that my assistant city counselor had a speech impediment and a walking disorder which made him walk in the grass and utter a few obscenities was a very tough job, but I gladly accepted for the 100 Boy's State Bucks. I won the case, by the way.
Thursday came and the 6:30 morning bugle wake-up no longer fazed me. I was up and out of bed like a spring chicken. I was excited to be a part of a program such as this and looked forward to seeing how it would all pan out.
As some of the Legion members may know, the events at Boy's State on Thursday evening of the week left many mouths open in awe. The acts of a few rambunctious candidates caused a very big scene and made the entire congregation of Boy's State look like nothing more than 960 belligerent teen-agers. The sad thing about the evening was not that a candidate for governor was sent home a few days early from Boy's State, but that the stereotype of the "punk teen-ager," all too-often portrayed on the news for the daily crimes and problems in society, was proven absolutely correct. It took a severe dressing down from Director Mike Stewart and a few hours of personal reflection to realize the error of our ways. The next morning, however, presented itself with a "second chance," so to speak, and the trust initially given and lost was regained in dramatic fashion as both gubernatorial candidates hit the ground running with excellent speeches. Elections followed shortly thereafter.
Hours later, the new governor was announced and the mock government was complete and functioning as the 51st state in the United States of America.
In merely six days, a complete state government was built from the ground up by a group of 960 Boy's Staters from all walks of life and all corners of Missouri. Seeing the new government in action didn't blow me away because I was there from the get-go, but the bonds that were created most certainly did. As it was stated many times on the final day during the final city meeting, "I may not remember the names of these guys 10 years from now, but I can guarantee I will never forget their faces."
On a lighter note, I can say I learned a lot about what I hope to o when I grow older. Becoming a lawyer is quite a possibility for me, but proving that every client has some sort of impairment may prove very difficult to do. Lying under oath is also a little harder to get away with in the real legal system, and it is frowned upon by most real-life judges. I also learned that Las Vegas will be the site of my 21st birthday bash. The way I figure it is if I can turn 10 Boy's State Bucks into $6,000 in a period of two hours at the Boy's State black jack table, I can surely strike it rich in Nevada with some real cash. Needless to say, I was graciously asked to leave the casino by the pit boss.
The slogan of Boy's State is "a week to shape a lifetime," but in my opinion, Boy's State did more than shape a lifetime. It shaped many, not only the lifetimes of those who attended and were shaped, but also the lives of those who will be inspired and led by those citizens of the 63rd session of Boy's State.
Today, I am most definitely a changed person. During that week I gained knowledge about our Constitution, state government and, lastly, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that the outspoken people are the ones that get remembered. The ones that speak their minds will etch our futures with their words, and the ones that stay silent end up lost and forgotten in the wake of those who left their impression on the world. I'd like to consider myself someone that will be remembered. My experience at Boy's State taught me that to be that one man that gets remembered and wins that election or gets that promotion, you must be the one that seizes any opportunity when it presents itself and never lose focus on what the goal at hand really and truly is.
When I look back at my time at Boy's State, I will forever remember that the American Legion sent me there. I will forever remember how it affected me and I will never forget what all Legion members stand for in our great nation.
One last thing I would like to mention before I go on my way is that out of 58 people in my city, Doniphan City, on the last day, I left with zero friends. That's right, zero friends. I left CMSU with 58 brothers that I will remember for a lifetime after only knowing them for a week.
Thank you, American Legionnaires, for supporting a wonderful program such as Missouri Boy's State. Thank you for sending me there and thank you for giving me the opportunity to live in the free country I so often take for granted. It truly was "A Week to shape a Lifetime."
Brandon Eldridge, Sikeston