For a week in June, I’m usually on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, volunteering for the American Legion Boys State of Kansas Leadership Academy.
Not this year, though.
Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the leadership team, of which I am a part, decided to cancel the upcoming 2020 session, which would have been the 83rd session, in order to keep everyone safe and healthy.
This was not an easy decision, but it was the right one.
“On behalf of the entire American Legion Boys State of Kansas Leadership Academy staff, I am saddened that we had to make the decision to cancel this year’s session due to COVID-19,” Executive Director Shane Wilson said in a news release. “However, for the health and well-being of the delegates, staff and Legionnaires, as well as the Kansas State University employees who assist our program, we felt this was the right call to make with the unknown future of this pandemic. And by cancelling the 2020 session now, this allows everyone involved to make alternate plans as needed.”
I echo Wilson’s sentiments, and I recognize how difficult this is. I love the Boys State program. It has had an incredible impact upon me, which I’ve written about on several occasions.
It pains me that this summer young men won’t get to experience our program, which, as is described in the news release, “is for individuals who will enter their senior year of high school in the fall. It provides a relevant, interactive, problem-solving experience in leadership and teamwork that develops self-identity, promotes mutual respect and instills civic responsibility. Boys State is a ‘learning by doing’ political exercise that simulates elections, political parties and government at the state, county and local levels, providing opportunities to lead under pressure, showcasing character and working effectively within a team. It’s also an opportunity to gain pride and respect for the price paid by members of the military to preserve democracy.”
However, hopefully they will still get the opportunity, but that means the American Legion’s national leadership needs to do the right thing and allow programs to admit people not entering their senior year of high school. For the sake of our program and other Boys State programs around the country, this strict rule must be relaxed, especially under these unique circumstances.
In any event, the grief and loss I was feeling was softened a bit April 4 during a Zoom meeting with the other members of the leadership team.
For two hours, we talked about plans for moving forward. We spent some time talking about how the cancellation impacted each of us, but then we stopped looking backward and started looking forward.
It was energizing.
We discussed ways to retool and refocus our program. We considered areas where our energies should be directed. We developed basic game plans for doing everything we can to put on the best program we can when the situation allows.
Nothing was finalized, but it was a great first step in the process.
So although I will miss working with the delegates and the other staff members this year, I know we will come back from this stronger than ever.
Hang in there. We’ll all get through this.