Rob Murray is the director of the American Legion Boys State, which gathers high school seniors-to-be in Mississippi and informs them on the political process from local government on up. Held on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi, this year’s Boys State wrapped June 2.
Q — This year’s Boys State just ended. How did it go?
A — This year’s program was a great success. We had over 300 delegates from all over the state. This year was the largest turnout we have had in over 9 years. Our speaker schedule included Sen. Wicker, Gov. Bryant and Congressman Palazzo to name a few. The delegates competed in running for office, sports and city projects. They elected their Big 8 offices, Legislature and were able to pass a budget.
Q — How are delegates chosen? Is there a cap on the number of delegates?
A — Delegates are nominated to Boys State through local American Legion posts or sponsored by small business owners and community leaders. We also worked with school counselors this year to help spread the program in all high schools throughout the state.
Q — Who are a few Boys State alumni that are now household names?
A — Sen. Wicker was a delegate in 1968. There have been many other political figures and athletes who have gone through the program in their respected states, including former President Bill Clinton. NFL quarterback Jason Campbell went to Mississippi Boys State in 1999.
Q — One of the primary missions of Boys State is to teach delegates about the Democratic and political process at different levels of government, including holding elections. Why is that important?
A — I believe learning about the election process is one of the most important aspects of the Boys State program. These young men will soon go to the polls just like their parents and grandparents before them to vote for who they believe should be our elected officials. The elections held at Boys State give the delegates an insight into the election process as they voted for their state and local officials. It also gives them an idea of how government projects are selected and funded.
Q — Do the delegates’ perceptions of the political process change from when they arrive to when they leave?
A — I think the delegates benefit from not only going through the program, but also interacting with their peers. These juniors becoming seniors debate the issues that are relative to their generation. We hope that each delegate is able to return to their communities with a better understanding of the duties and responsibilities of their elected officials.
Q — What part of Boys State is traditionally the most popular with the delegates?
A — I think it’s the brotherhood. The program selects over 300 delegates from the Coast all the way up to the Tennessee border. Guys from all different types of backgrounds come together and spend a week on a college campus living in the dorms. Life-long friendships are made at Boys State. I still to this day keep up with friends I met when I was a delegate in 2003 at Delta State.
Q — There was some talk this year of combining Girls and Boys State. What do you think of that idea?
A — I think both sides are very comfortable with the direction of the programs. The Women’s Auxiliary and American Legion both do tremendous jobs working with the young leaders of our state. There are definitely pros and cons to combining the two programs.
Q — What do you see as the future for Boys State?
A — One of the biggest areas our staff focused on this year was social media. We have pushed hard on Facebook and Twitter to attract future Mississippi leaders. I can feel the rising momentum of this program. We know how special this program is and how it impacts the lives of young adults. Our goal is to bring this experience to as many future world leaders as we can.
More on Murray:
Must have Mississippi food: My mom’s gumbo
Favorite movie: “The Departed”
Last book read: I read “Calico Joe,” by John Grisham, on the plane ride back to D.C. after Boys State.
BEFORE YOU GO…
… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.
If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.Click for more info