Boys State kicks off at Radford University with welcome celebration

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Radford University's Bondurant Auditorium came alive on June 21 with cheers and song from the nearly 650 members of the 73rd American Legion Boys State of Virginia at this year's welcoming celebration.

For the third year in a row, Radford University's has hosted Boys State, a unique opportunity where young men spend their week learning about American civic principles and participating in a simulation of Virginia local and state government.

Radford University President Penelope W. Kyle joined the celebration, welcoming the assembly to campus and encouraging them to make the most of their week.

"There are many events in life that you go through and you don’t realize that it is something you will never forget," Kyle said. "This week is one of those. It will have such an impact on your life."

President Kyle also reminded the assembled Boys State that they followed in a long tradition of leadership in the Commonwealth.

"Throughout American history, men and women have looked to Virginians for guidance and vision…We love our country, we love our Commonwealth and we love the people in it," Kyle said. "These values are reflected in Boys State and all who attend it. Embrace them and you will become the next generation of leaders in Virginia."

 Radford City Manager David Ridpath extended greetings on behalf of the city. Ridpath himself attended Boys State in 1979 and said the experience had a profound effect on his choice to enter into a career of public service.

"Democracy, leadership and integrity are three words you’re going to think about this week," Ridpath said. "Take advantage of this opportunity. You’re going to learn a lot."

Ken Knight, the emcee for celebration, surprised Kyle and Ridpath by making them honorary "blue shirts," or Boys State advisors, to tremendous applause from the crowd.

The keynote speaker for the evening's festivities was retired Navy Rear Adm. William Cobb, another Virginia Boys State alumnus.

"It was 53 years ago that I sat right where you’re sitting," Cobb said.

Before offering his advice to the crowd about careers, service and the Boys State experience, Cobb took time to thank the Boys State band, who played at the celebration despite only forming hours prior.

"You’re all leaders and you’re going to remember this," Cobb said. "I still remember those days in 1962, the friendships that I formed, and what I learned about the government of Virginia."

The convocations didn't end with the welcome celebration. Throughout the week, they'll hear from Virginia's top administrators including Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring.

While on campus, Boys State attendees will participate in a variety of activities that reflect the rights, privileges, duties and responsibilities of a citizen, including mock legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement presentations and assemblies.

There's plenty of time for fun as well. Attendees will experience several music and recreational programs. They will also have use of the popular Radford University Student Recreation and Wellness Center, which opened in December.

Participants in Boys State are exemplary high school juniors who are selected by Virginia's American Legion posts to attend on the strength of their academics, leadership abilities and citizenship. In many cases, expenses of attending this program are paid by a sponsoring American Legion Post, local business or other community-based organization.

For more information, visit the American Legion Boys State of Virginia website.

Jun 22, 2015