WATERVILLE, Maine — The 63rd Annual American Legion Dirigo Boys State kicked off Sunday when hundreds of high school students gathered at Thomas College to learn firsthand about how local and state government is run.
“The purpose of Boys State is to provide Maine high school juniors with the opportunity to participate in a program that supplements their high school courses in government and its functions,” the American Legion Department of Maine website states. “In this program, young men role-play as they learn to campaign for local, county and state offices and then organize and carry out the functions of the state government.”
The participating boys, will be instructed by “town and city managers, town selectmen, judges, attorneys, members of the Maine House of Representatives and Maine Senate, teachers, guidance counselors and others familiar with local, county and state government,” the website states.
During the weeklong program, which began Sunday and runs through Thursday, several dignitaries are scheduled to speak, including U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud on Sunday evening and Gov. John Baldacci on Wednesday evening.
Baldacci ran for governor of Boys State when he was in high school against 19 other candidates and did not win. He said on Sunday that the experience taught him a lot about how government in Maine operates, and even more about making important connections.
“These are the top candidates out of each high school running for office, and sometimes it doesn’t work out for them,” he said. “But I don’t want them to be discouraged.
“The memories … will last a lifetime,” Baldacci said. “Others will remember you for the experiences you have here.”
People he met while running for governor of Boys State, later helped him when he ran for state representative and governor, he has said.
The governor will speak to Girls State delegates Tuesday evening at Husson College. Boys State and Girls State are sponsored by the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary, respectively.