Boys State Teaches Politics and Character

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From left to right: Gabriell Almod-Lopez, Jack Hitchcock, and Me

Photo of Boys inside the Florida House of Representatives preparing for our the inauguration of our governor and first legislative session.

Adjourning Sine Die: Just like the Florida Senate and House, we convened our legislation with the cermonial dropping of hankerchiefs.

from Broward County, began his stump speech immediately. Meanwhile, Joseph Corley, from Newport Richie, Florida, explained his support for Gabriell. The four of us became close friends.

Then, we started our first city meeting in our dorm building hallway. Aaron began by having us say our names and hometown. I said, “Hi I’m Gabriel Bassin, and I’m from Jacksonville.”

Aside from city member, Jaden Vitrella, who became well known for starting Freddy Mercury style “hey oh” chants, I was only city member from Jacksonville. This was by design so new friendships will form.

The next day, we started classes in three programs, called schools. Our Florida History teacher, Mr. Bob Knight was a Florida legend. The two other schools were on Legislative Procedure and Law.
Each day, we had speakers. Speakers I felt honored to hear included John Dailey, mayor of Tallahassee; Justice Canady, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice; Nikki Fried, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture; and Bob Inglis, former US Congressman and RepulicEN Executive Director.

We had simulations. These were short experiences within our cities or counties where we attempted to tackle real world issues. The reasoning being that if anyone could solve the issue, the cream of the crop certainly could. 

Our city simulation concerned response to severe red tide on our beaches. It proved to be a chaotic, yet interesting activity where we debated appropriate response and action strategies.

We had elections. Our elections happened on three levels: city, county, and state. City and county elections were uneventful with mostly meaningless positions, with the exception of a few: such as laundry man and mayor., two positions that actually had responsibilities.

Our three members sent to the Senate, the most prestigious legislative body, were Jack Hitchcock, the mayor, Josiah Johnson, the roommate, and me. Afterwards, Rep. Alexander shared with us that these elections were indicative because, as he said, “the cream tends to rise to the top.”

Executive elections happened over a long process where I learned that our party’s candidates (The Federalists) had no political knowledge at all. In fact, our nominee for governor asked at one point, “Wait. What’s the difference between the right and the left?”
The cream of the crop?

Needless to say, we lost the governor seat. In fact, we lost all of the executive positions.
I, a heavily invested Federalist, even voted all Nationalist. Why? Because none of our candidates knew what to do, so it was reassuring to see some of the better educated candidates win.

Our downfall probably began when the Federalist governor nominee mis-spoke, “In response to Parkland, my heart goes out to the shooter…wait…I mean…the families.”

We spent the last two days at the Capitol. We sat in the the actual Senators’ seats, spoke into the actual mics, and used the actual voting boards. I got my bill passed through the Senate, introducing a tax on carbon emissions. As a government, we legalized marijuana, which seemed to be a non-partisan issue for most of Boys State. Of course, there were some random bills that passed through, but, overall, we created a dialogue.

The speakers and classes taught basic lessons on leadership and civics. But beyond that, we learned from experience.

The only way to survive at Boys State was to branch out. It taught you how to put yourself out there and how to win people over.

But, it also taught you how to lose. Because, in all the competition and elections, we lost a lot. In fact, overall, we lost for the most part. But it was fine because you also built relationships.

I hope to keep in touch with Joseph and Gabriell as long as possible. In fact, the Instagram Alexander Springs group chat is still very active.

At the same time, hearing all these speakers and sitting in the Florida Senate debating and voting on real issues felt surreal.

I constantly switched schools growing up, as before Bolles the longest I had ever been at the same school was three years.

After Boys State, I not only feel more interested and engaged in the political and legal spheres, but I also feel like I made closer friends in six days than I have in years.

So, we held our last city meeting. And at the end, after we had all already cried, Aaron wanted to end it the way it began. So, we said our names and hometown.

And by my turn, I said, as did everyone else, “I’m Gabriel Bassin, and I’m from Alexander Springs.”

Cream of the Crop

1. The Best of the Best

2. What Florida American Legion Boys Staters are constantly referred to by every counselor and every program manager every single chance they possibly get

3. Actually the best boys in the state. These boys are the most committed to civics and active participation in politics by far.

See also: Kreme of Da Krop – an alternate spelling of creme of the crop or the name of the official shared Spotify playlist brought to you by the citizens of Alexander Springs

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