Consider civic engagement on Independence Day

So it’s over. The 79th session of the American Legion Boys State of Kansas Leadership Academy is over.

The program wrapped up nearly a month ago, and it’s always difficult to accept that. We refer to it as the “Boys State Hangover.” There is such energy weaving in and out of the week and activities making up each session of Boys State. It can be rather jarring for the energy to suddenly dissipate. It takes time to readjust to non-State life. Each year my fellow counselors, coordinators and advisors spend countless hours in preparation. Then, a mere week after we officially start the session, it is over.

But it never truly ends. Those involved in the program such as myself simply begin anew and start the preparations for the next session. In this case it will be our 80th session, so it is a milestone year.

For the delegates, whom we refer to as Staters, it is over, but it doesn’t have to be. If we’ve done our jobs, the program ignited a fire within. A fire inextinguishable by mere time.

That fire consists of civic responsibility and leadership.

It is my sincere hope our delegates use that fire to accomplish good in their communities and our state.

That fire needs to be fed, though. The month of July is a great time to toss a few more sticks of kindling on, especially this year since it is an election year.

With the 4th of July comes a national swell of patriotism. Everyone feels more American as they celebrate our country’s independence under the flashes of fireworks exploding in the sky.

Much like fireworks, a fuse must be lit to see the shower of light illuminating the night sky.

For Boys State and its goal of creating leaders instilled with civic responsibility, the fuse was lit when the Stater applied to be a part of the program, and the fire racing its way up the fuse is the experience of State. All we have to do is wait for the payoff and enjoy the show.

A lot of factors can get in the way of that fire and the resulting explosion of action, so I urge you to help keep that fire burning in any fashion you can.

Talk politics with your children, and urge them to research and explore where they stand on any given issue. Guide them through this journey, but let them come to their own conclusions.

It may be difficult to accept should your son or daughter end up disagreeing with you politically, but for the sake our country’s democracy, we have to have knowledgeable and engaged citizens who can stand up for what they believe. If the only rationale your son or daughter has for believing something is, “that’s what my mom and dad said,” then they don’t truly believe in anything.

They need to understand and be able to support their stance, and, more importantly, they need to be able to understand the beliefs of those who disagree with them. They don’t need to think the same as everyone else, but they need to be able to listen to dissenting views and work with those individuals.

Reaching a belief system is only the first step. They then need to go out and do something with it. Getting involved at the local level is a great start. Believe in them and support them as they take steps to make positive impacts within their communities.

That is the goal of Boys State, and it is something we are so passionate about that we want everyone to do it. We want to see the beauty of the fireworks as the fire ignites something larger than themselves.

Want to help light a fuse for a young man you know? Then please visit and nominate him, or, better yet, have him fill out the application to truly get the fuse burning.

Together, we can help light up Kansas with smart, engaged civic leaders.

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About toddvogts 800 Articles
Todd R. Vogts, MJE, is an assistant professor of media at Sterling College in Kansas. Previously, he taught yearbook, newspaper, newsmagazine, and online journalism in various Kansas high schools, and he ran a weekly newspaper in rural Kansas. He continues to freelance as a professional journalist from time to time. Also, Vogts is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association, among others. When he’s not teaching or writing, he runs his mobile disk jockey service and takes part in other entrepreneurial ventures. He can be reached at or via his website at