American Legion hears from Boys' and Girls' State delegates
By Merja H. Lehtinen - ReminderNews
Colchester - posted Mon., Sep. 23, 2013
At its meeting on Sept. 12, American Legion Post 54 elected officers for 2014 and heard reports from Bacon Academy students who recently attended the annual Boys’ State and Girls’ State conventions.
American Legion members are always ready to uphold the Constitution of the United States and to protect democracy. The veterans were eager to see how these ideals are being passed on to the younger generation, who learned how the government works at their statewide conventions.
"We learned about state government, how bills are written, and how voting works at the town and state level," said Boys' State attendee Nate Baldi. "There were great speakers: [U.S. Sen.] Dick Blumenthal was my favorite," he said. Baldi thought Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman was another great speaker.
Nathan Kozlowski, another Boys' State attendee, also said he liked the speakers and seeing first-hand how politics and government works as a transition to adulthood.
Girls' State delegates Courtney Vitale and Paige Breault also said the speakers were among the best parts of the conventions, where selected high school students learn about government at all levels. All four Bacon students were sponsored by Post 54 to attend in order to learn how to be responsible citizens.
Vitale said that she learned the issue of voter IDs is not as simple as she believed. Many people required to show drivers' licenses in inner cities to vote do not drive, she said. It made her reconsider the requirement, as it is more complicated for many people.
Breault worked on the convention newspaper rather than running for an office. She mentioned she learned about the need for more women to participate in government at all levels.
Dan Henderson, the Post's commander, implored the students to share what they learned with their classmates. "Your civic duties are all part of your education," he said. Henderson reminded the young people that institutional knowledge gained is critical to share with classmates so that all can become actively involved in the community as good citizens. The students also noted that by holding elections among themselves to serve in mock roles as mayors or governor, they learned politics can involve "dirty games" and "lots of talking behind the scenes." The girls noted not as many women are involved in government and politics as men, and they see the need to get involved in greater numbers.
Newly elected officers for American Legion Post 54 for 2014 are Dan Henderson, who was re-elected as commander of Post 54, Alphonse Letendre as the senior vice commander, John Mainella, as quarter master, Thomas O'Meara as finance officer, and Roger Bergeron as chaplain. Many members have served for decades, since World War II and beyond, according to Walt Tallman, a past commander from 1990-1995, who has been with the post for 32 years. Others have been members for as many as 60 years, such as Edward Zagaski, who Tallman said is the longest-standing member at this time.