MARSHALL - The 2014 Boys State participants had plenty to think about throughout the day Thursday as a variety of speakers offered them words of wisdom for their future.
"We've actually had a lot of really cool speakers who came here," Russell-Tyler-Ruthton's Hunter Burns said. "Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's speech was pretty cool. And we've had chief of police and various state representative people, and it's been pretty awesome. Boys State is probably the one and only place I'd ever get that."
The words spoken by Simeon Toronto, the 2013 Minnesota Boys State governor had an impact on the 355 high school seniors-to-be in attendance. In addition to holding the state governor position, Toronto also went on to Boys Nation last summer in Washington, D.C., and became the Boys Nation governor.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Boys State attendees, including Tracy Area’s Jacob Schmitt, second from left, applauded for guest speaker Kurt Daudt, Minnesota House of Representatives Minority Leader, Thursday afternoon. Simeon Toronto, the 2013 Boys State governor, also gave a speech Thursday.
In his speech, Toronto gave the Boys Staters a reality check, pointing out how the world is full of greed, corruption, family deterioration and many other societal problems.
"There will be bad hair days, pull-your-hair-out days and for men, no hair days," he said. "Our society is decomposing. But those problems create opportunities for us to help make a positive impact in our world."
Toronto encouraged audience members to join forces and work together.
"In the year 2014, 'selfie' was added to the Oxford dictionary," Toronto said. "We promote ourselves, which is probably why our elders refer to us as the 'Me Generation.' But let's prove them wrong. Let's make a difference."
Toronto suggested that the young men study and ponder the lives and decisions made by "those who fought to preserve our nation." By learning about history and then acting together with good intentions, much can be achieved, he said.
Kurt Daudt, Minnesota House of Representatives Minority Leader, also offered some priceless wisdom.
"Treat people with the utmost respect, even if you disagree with them," Daudt said. "As members of different party lines, we may be rowing in different directions, but we're all in the same boat."
Daudt was elected to his current position after only two years in the Legislature. At that time, he wished there had been a manual to go by.
"The last time we had single-party control was 22 years ago," he said about the Democratic control. "And I was still in high school."
When asked by a Boys Stater, Daudt explained the relationship he had with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton.
"We don't see eye to eye, I'll tell you that," Daudt said. "But while I don't agree with him politically, I believe he's doing what he thinks is the best for the state. We may not agree with each other, but we do have respect for each other."
Burns is doubtful that he'll get into politics in the future, though he hasn't ruled the out the possibility.
"I probably won't have a career in politics, but it's still really cool to be here and experience this," he said. "At first I was a little worried about coming here because I didn't know what it was going to be like, but then once I got here, I realized that this was pretty cool. I like learning about government, so it's really fun."
Burns admits that he's learned a lot during the week at Boys State.
"There's a lot of different sessions that we sit in on and we learn how to write bills and pass legislature," Burns said. "I also ran for Senate, but unfortunately, I lost out to the people in my city. But actually, the city of Mankato is representing. We have a lot of people in good positions."
Jakob Hicks, who is homeschooled in rural Tracy, said he has also learned a great deal.
"I've learned a lot about how the Legislature works and about government," he said. "I kind of had an idea but now actually going through it and being a part of it, you learn so much more. Some of the bills that some of the kids are pushing for are amazing. I would have never thought of stuff like that. But they're actually issues that can be addressed."
The goal of the 2014 Boys State class is to get a bill passed through the actual Legislature sometime in the near future.
"Our goal is to actually get a bill through the House, the Senate and have the future (Boys State) governor pass it and get it sent to the real House and Senate in Minnesota and hopefully get a real law enacted," Hicks said. "That would be pretty cool."
Recently, Hicks was voted to serve as a House representative. He said he's found some of the topics to be quite controversial.
"The bill that we're working through the House right now is the legalization of medicinal marijuana," he said. "It's a controversial issue. It's kind of a big deal, so we've been talking a lot about it."
One of the difficult decisions that Boys State participants have to make is whether to lean on local ties or stick to party lines when voting.
"Some topics are difficult to discuss because it's hard to go with what your city wants versus what your opinions are," Hicks said. "And we actually have a governor candidate (Lucas Mumm) from our city (Hibbing). He's from a different party than I am, but I support him. I like him as a person, and he's had an impact on me and our town."
On Thursday afternoon, Mumm, the Federalist gubernatorial candidate, and Tucker Pearson, the Nationalist opponent, went head-to-head in a debate, which is something that Marshall senior-to-be Amiel Hassan looked forward to.
"I like watching the debates and being part of the debates," Hassan said. "It's fun to watch and fun to see how they debate, how they talk and the ideas they have."
Hassan is currently a county board member and an alternate delegate.
"It's an interesting process," Hassan said. "It's made up, but it's close to the real thing. I've learned quite a bit."
Before the gubernatorial debate, Hassan said he'd likely vote within his party line.
"I'll probably pick the Federalist candidate because I've seen him more," he said. "I don't really know the other guy very well."
Marshall student Michael Larson is also a Federalist, though he admits he hasn't been too involved in the campaigning process and wasn't sure who he was voting for.
"I haven't heard too much yet about what it going on," he said. "But I know the campaigners are really working hard, trying to get those votes."
Larson said he's enjoyed his time at Boys State, but noted that it was a lot to absorb in a short amount of time.
"We've had schools of instruction, which are basically crash courses on some of the government," Larson said. "We've learned a lot on legislative and judicial branches. It's really hard to take in all of it at once, but overall, it's going good and I'm learning a lot."
A number of other area Boys Staters also hold elected positions. Murray County Central's Logan Kluis is currently a member of the House of Representatives and a city councilor for Duluth. Lakeview's Sawyer Stevens and Jakeb Brower were both voted into the House as well. Stevens also holds the position of election clerk for the city of Mankato.
Red Rock Central's Joel Derickson is the city attorney for Winona, while schoolmate Rene Celedon is a county board member for Cook County. Marshall's Collin Reilly holds the position of county board member for Nicollet County.
Final elections for the highest Boys State positions are expected to take place early today.