A hands on lesson in democracy

Friday, August 11, 2017
(Sentinel Photo by Beverly Van Buskirk) Pictured from left are, Sebastian Buman, Carter Sitzmann, Alec Rieken and Noah Watson, Boys State participants sponsored by American Legion Wasmer Post #241, and post chaplain Bud VanderWell.

LE MARS — Four area high schoolers have a much better understanding of the American democratic process, thanks to American Legion Wasmer Post #241.

Seniors Alec Rieken and Noah Watson from Le Mars Community, and Sebastian Buman and Carter Sitzmann from Gehlen Catholic all attended American Legion Boys State June 11-16 at Camp Dodge in Johnston.

The students were sponsored by Wasmer Post #241, and at the post’s monthly meeting on Wednesday, the boys expressed their thanks to legion members for giving them the opportunity to learn about the democratic process.

The week started off with the boys being split up into the Federalist and Nationalist parties along with about 550 others, then elections were held midway through the week, and the rest of the time was spent running the government at a state, county and city level.

“It’s a week of learning about the democratic process in the United States,” Buman explained. “The legion takes boys from all over the state and you stay in an Army barracks and learn about the democratic process.”

The boys explained everyone had a role to play, and after the elections, Rieken and Buhman ended up as district judges, Watson a county treasurer, and Sitzmann ended up as a mailman.

Watson said it was an eye-opening experience that showed just how many jobs fall under a government’s responsibility.

“Even the smaller jobs that don’t seem as important, you need them,” Watson said. “When you don’t have people there to fill the role, it makes things a lot more complicated.”

Sitzmann said he was struck by how open the process was.

“It was trying to govern ourselves, we made our own rules and everything,” Sitzmann said.

Because of that openness, Watson added both parties had to learn how to work together and make compromises.

“It really helps you find out if you want to be involved in politics,” Watson said. “There was a lot of clashing. It was hard to take it all in while trying to create something. It shows how much work it takes to make something work.”

Rieken said the week of self-governing made him utilize leadership qualities he didn’t know he possessed, something he hopes to carry over this year at Le Mars Community.

“To me, it was getting with guys my age who have the same mindset for growth and learning as leaders,” Rieken said.

All four agreed even if you don’t want to get involved in politics, Boys State is a great opportunity to learn how important ones vote can be.

“I’m definitely more interested in being involved in the process and voting myself,” Buman said.

The boys heavily encouraged next year’s juniors to apply to attend Boys State.

“I’d tell them it’s worth it solely because of the friendships you make while you are there, and just the experience of having exposure to different opinions,” Buman said. “We were all there for the same purpose.”

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