• Elias Garvey travels to D.C. to represent Alaska at national conference
By Sean Pearson
While many high school students measure their current success in regard to the kind of clothes they wear, the cars they drive or their social status among peers, 17-year-old Elias Garvey has a much different set of goals in mind.
After literally falling into Boys State via promotional posters placed on lockers at the school, the Homer High senior totally embraced the program that allows students to participate in becoming a part of the operation of local, county and state government.
“I find politics way interesting – and very entertaining,” Garvey said. “I’m not sure what the future holds. I leave that up to God.”
Garvey said he originally had no idea what Boys State was, so he called the number on their flyer and asked them to tell him about it.
“I was certainly interested in the political process,” he said. “But – in reality – it was the four college credits I could earn that really hooked me.”
At Boys State, Garvey said participants were introduced to roommates and counselors, and then basically directed to elect a mayor for their cabin.
“I stepped up, and I ended up winning,” Garvey said. “The other guy was really qualified, but I think my public speaking skills were just a bit more polished than his.”
As “mayor,” Garvey was in charge of running his cabin like a small city.
“I accepted responsibility for getting things done like daily chores and groundskeeping duties, and help solve disputes,” he explained. “I believe I was well-respected among the people in my cabin.”
And while Garvey assured that the group did plenty of fun summer stuff like swimming and just ‘hanging out,’ the majority of the focus was on the rights and privileges, the duties and the responsibilities of a franchised citizen.
“We would basically go through the process of introducing a bill, reading it in its entirety and sending it to committee,” Garvey said. “I was the Chair of Community and State Affairs. We handled things that affected the state of the community.”
Garvey said several bills didn’t make it very far through the process, receiving a unanimous “do not pass” vote.
“They were really just ideas that were too radical,” he said. “One was introducing legislation to legalize hookers and tax their income, and even involved a training school. We voted that one down because we found it too cost-inefficient – and that it just wasn’t the right thing to do, morally.”
According to Garvey, a couple of other issues that got rather heated on the senate floor – including abortion and the legalization of marijuana.
Toward the end of the Boys State session, officials announced that two people from Boys State would be chosen to attend Boys Nation in Washington, D.C.
“I thought, ‘Oh snap, I wanna go,’” Garvey recalled.
However, when he found that he had lost the “Governor” position at Boys State, he figured his chances to attend in D.C. were pretty much over.
“They started announcing who was going to Boys Nation, and all I remember hearing was ‘Elias Garvey,’” he said. “I was totally shocked. I mean, I was really happy, but I think I just stood there in a daze for a while.”
Garvey returned home from Wasilla with not only the good news about going to Boys Nation, but a huge packet of forms to fill out and sign as well.
“They handed me a 40-page packet with instructions to, ‘Familiarize yourself with this before arriving at the conference,’” Garvey said. “I read a lot of it on the plane and was pretty familiar with it by the time I hit Chicago. I was just too excited to sleep.”
According to Garvey, when he stepped off the plane, he was greeted by someone from Boys Nation.
And then that’s what he spent the rest of the day doing.
“We walked around and introduced ourselves to each other over and over again,” Garvey said.
Garvey said he didn’t have too much trouble with people remembering him.
“People pay attention when you say you’re from Alaska,” he said. “Luckily no one has asked me about living in igloos since the fourth grade. But, after all the Palin stuff, most of the people just kept asking if we really had 24 hours of sunlight in the summer.”
Instead of the more rustic cabins in Wasilla, Boys Nation Senators were put up in dorms at Marymount University.
“We were shown to our rooms, and there was a sign on my door that read: ‘The Honorable Elias Garvey, representing the Great State of Alaska,’” Garvey explained. “I was like, ‘Yeah!’”
Garvey said the group began holding elections for officers, and the whole process took four or five days.
“Most of the time, things were pretty civil,” he said. “But, every now and then, you would hear the smashing of the gavel and a call for order.”
This being his first time to the nation’s capitol, Garvey said he also enjoyed the time spent touring the city.
“That was literally overwhelming and beautiful,” he said. “It certainly made me develop a deeper appreciation for the soldiers – and all Americans – who stand for our freedom.”
Because of his faith, Garvey said he felt drawn to the office of chaplain at Boys Nation.
“I expressed my interest in the office and explained how my life is for God,” he said. “I found out a few days later I had been appointed the position and was sworn in as chaplain. I was really nervous, but it was a huge honor.”
While Eli can’t attend Boys Nation next year – candidates are only eligible between their junior and senior year of high school – he does have aspirations to return as a junior counselor in two years.
“All the counselors I spoke with there said that being chosen was an honor, and found their experience to be as equally impacting as going the first time,” Garvey said. “I feel truly indebted to the American Legion. This was an experience beyond a trip – it was a life lesson.”
As for his future plans, Garvey said he’s leaving it up to God.
“I want to serve Christ with my life,” he said. “And while I would like for that to be through writing, and possibly public speaking, I leave it all up to Him.”
As for his overall experience at Boys Nation, Garvey said it is something he would recommend to anyone.
“We basically did what senators do, but we got to have a lot more fun doing it,” he said. “Well, at least I think we did.”
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