American Legion National Commander Michael D. Helm has met one on one with President Barack Obama, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald, members of Congress and U.S. military leaders. He’s traveled to the Far East and Europe, and appeared on national news programs.
But some of the highlights of his year have been interacting with youth who participate in American Legion programs. Helm was able to attend the National Oratorical Content finals in April and, most recently, was a distinguished guest at the Department of Wisconsin’s Badger Boys State 74th Inaugural Ceremony at Ripon College.
“I think that’s the most exciting thing I do as national commander is seeing our youth programs and how they are developing,” Helm said. “Our young people … understand more clearly now what we’re doing as veterans (and) what we’ve done as veterans. They appreciate not only our service, but what we’re doing with programs such as Boys State, Oratoricals (and) the Boy Scouts. All of those programs are bringing some energy into our departments.”
The standing-room only crowd inside the J.M. Storzer Athletic Center gymnasium was entertained by the Badger Boys State Choir and Band while hearing from various Legion officials and various state dignitaries.
One of those, Gov. Scott Walker, is a Badger Boys State and American Legion Boys Nation alumnus who served as a Boys State counselor for several years. Both of Walker’s sons also have participated in the Boys State program; his son Matt was governor.
“What makes Boys State, what makes Boys Nation … so special is that the men and women … who came up with the idea of Boys State, the veterans who did that, did that because of their love for country,” said Walker, who proclaimed June 13-20 as Badger Boys State Week. “The men and women who served this country … said, ‘We’ve got to have something that reinforces the value of patriotism in this country and hopefully inspires a love of country.’
“What has made us exceptional, what has made us the greatest country in the history of the world, is been all throughout those times of crisis, there have been men and women of courage who have been willing to think more about the future their children, and someday their grandchildren, than they thought about their own … futures.”
Along similar lines, Badger Boys State Gov. Jacob Malinowski of Taylor, Wis., said that he often tells friends and others that they are living in the best country in the world. When someone presents an opposing viewpoint, “I like to picture Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence,” Malinowski said. “I like to picture that in my mind: What he was going through, what one of the greatest authors in American history was thinking at the time.
“He didn’t know what he was starting. He didn’t know we would be the most powerful nation on earth. I don’t think that’s something arrogant to say because I think that it’s the truth. It’s not arrogant to speak the truth.”
Swearing in the newly elected Boys State officials was Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Ann Walsh Bradley, the daughter-in-law of John Bradley, a U.S. Navy Corpsman who took part in the iconic flag raising at Iwo Jima.
Judge Bradley talked about the individuals involved in the flag raising and their sacrifices. “I tell you this story because I want to give you a face to those figures on that statue,” she said. “I want you to remember their sacrifices, what they did and what … the people serving in our military, at home and abroad, are doing for all of us. We have to know the importance (of their sacrifice).”
– See more at: http://www.legion.org/boysnation/228289/patriotism-and-sacrifice-birth-boys-state#sthash.F23E8D30.dpuf