Boys State participants listen to retired United States Air Force Col. and current Virginia Delegate Rich Anderson give the keynote address.

For the fifth consecutive year, Radford University welcomed some of the Commonwealth’s future leaders for the start of the 75th session of American Legion Boys State of Virginia on June 18.


Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill greeted the nearly 800-strong contingent of Boys State participants, who spent the week learning about American civic principles and participating in a simulation of Virginia local and state government.

“The American Legion Boys State is a respected educational program,” Hemphill said. “You will experience legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands and recreational programs to name a few. You have an opportunity to focus on your individual interests, build friendships and meet members of the Virginia government as well as business leaders. I know that this will truly be a profound week for each of you.”

Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill accepts a Boys State t-shirt.

The Boys State participants also heard from retired United States Air Force Col. and current Virginia Delegate Rich Anderson, who was the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony.

“I look to the future with great optimism because there are young Virginians of caliber and character here seated today that are going to lead our great state, this wonderful Commonwealth, into a bright future,” Anderson said. “I have every confidence in that.”

George Blum, a historian for Boys Nation, challenged the participants to seize the opportunity of attending Boys State.

“You’ve got to work first and you’ve got to work hard,” Blum said. “Every ounce that you put into [Boys State] you will get back. I think you can do it.”

Attendees will also hear from the Commonwealth’s top administrators, including Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring.

City of Radford Mayor Bruce Brown addresses the Boys State attendees.

City of Radford Mayor Bruce Brown lauded the generosity of the attendees, who donated 2,029 food items to Our Daily Bread, a food bank that serves the City of Radford and the New River Valley.

“Boys State is truly a platform for future generations of leaders in government,” Brown said.

President Hemphill expressed gratitude for Radford University being the continued host of the celebrated event during his welcoming remarks on Sunday evening.

“I am pleased that Radford University is hosting this renowned event on our campus,” Hemphill said. “During your Boys State visit, you will get to know and appreciate what really makes Radford University so special. With the American Legion’s leadership and Radford University’s support, you, the next generation, will ignite the dynamic passion that will propel our country forward.”

In addition to the speeches and instructional sessions by holders of the Commonwealth’s top offices, Boys State attendees participated in non-partisan, objective activities that reflect the rights, duties and responsibilities of a United States citizen. Activities included mock legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement presentations and assemblies, as well as music and recreational programs.

Virginia’s American Legion selects exemplary high school juniors to attend Boys State based on academic achievements, leadership ability, civic engagement and citizenship. In many cases, attendance costs are covered by a sponsoring American Legion Post, local business or other organization.

The 75th session of American Legion Boys State of Virginia concluded on Saturday, June 24, with a ceremony that includes awards and recognitions, a farewell address by Boys State Director Gerald Rhoads and a grand finale by the Boys State Band and Chorus.

— Sherry Wallace

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