Life-changing Boys Nation


Tyler Carson and Jonathan Elder have returned as changed young men from their experience this month at
American Legion Boys Nation in Washington, D.C.
Before leaving on July 17 they knew they had the distinction of being the first delegate-duo from Wood
County chosen for the event from Buckeye Boys State.
Boys Nation consisted of 98 high school seniors, two from every state except Hawaii, who stayed at
Marymount University in Arlington, Va., from July 17-25. The delegates split their week between
functioning as a Senate to debate bills and touring sites in the city.
Elder, from Perrysburg High School, and Carson, an Otsego High School senior, somewhat expected Boys
Nation to be full of mega-ego, limelight-grabbing peers but ended up making numerous friends among the
"It was surprisingly laid back," said Elder. "We had heated debates on political issues,
but at the end of the day we’d sit back and talk about sports and eat pizza."
A major highlight for both teens was hearing so many peers from across the nation express diverse
opinions, based on personal knowledge of their home state and region.
"It really opened my mind to how many different opinions are there," explained Carson.
"There’s always information, always a variable you didn’t take into account." He said there
were issues he thought he knew thoroughly. But then a delegate from a different state would speak to the
topic, and "it knocked the foundation out of my entire argument."
As senators, both spoke on issues which were of importance to them. Elder urged his party to
"unleash the free market on health care" and to add the issue to his party’s platform. Carson
spoke against repealing "don’t ask, don’t tell," citing its negative impact on the
cohesiveness of the military, but he also spoke for same-sex marriage.
In addition, both Carson and Elder were touched to visit the World War II, Korean and Vietnam war
memorials, accompanied by veterans who volunteer at Boys Nation.
"When you have the veterans it really hits closer to home. You realize these guys sacrificed for
this country, and this is who we’re memorializing. It was definitely an inspiring experience," said
Elder. Carson said spending the week with veterans, knowing "they’ve been there," made the war
memorials special to him.
A special highlight to Carson was hearing a World War II Holocaust survivor, originally from Lithuania.
It was the first time he had heard a Holocaust survivor, and "it was definitely something I’ll
Numerous people impressed Elder, from a World War II veteran retiring after 43 years at Boys Nation, to a
female World War II veteran in her early 100s who is still active in the American Legion, an American
Legion lobbyist who works on behalf of veterans and a two-star general who is a JAG attorney and chief
clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Both teens enjoyed meeting with U.S. Rep. Bob Latta and Sen. George Voinovich in their offices. "It
gave an inside look into the real-life version of what we’d been doing all week," said Carson.
Meeting and talking to the two men was life-changing for Elder, causing him to consider a career change
from business to law, and solidifying his desire to go into politics. His day on Capital Hill "was
one of the days I’ll remember for the rest of my life."
Both teens were disappointed not to meet President Obama. The junior counselors, all former delegates to
Boys Nation, talked up their experience, but when the teens arrived at the White House the breakfast
they were to attend was canceled as well as meeting Obama personally, even though he was there. "He
didn’t give a reason," said Elder.
"We weren’t acknowledged," said Carson. "We took the tour the general population
But the junior counselors turned a disappointing event into something humorous. They told the teens the
president had changed his mind and would meet with them, then brought into the room a life-size
photographic cut-out of the president which was used for photos.
Carson, who’s always wanted to go to law school, said he gained a new level of confidence from his
experience at Boys Nation. He also marvels that Boys Nation was a "once-in-a-lifetime"
opportunity for him to be in a program where "everyone was the same type of personality, same
ambition." He said their opinions were diverse, but not the teens. They were "leader, leader,

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