WL student goes to U.S. Capitol

Jacob Lane · Thursday, August 22, 2013
Elliot Henderson, 17, traveled to Washington, D.C. as an Iowan delegate to the annual American Legion's Boys Nation July 19-26.

He was one of 98 high school seniors in the United States chosen to do so, and the only one from the West Liberty area.

"It's an honor for the Legion and for our town," said West Liberty Legion Adjutant, Brian McIntire, "I believe he's the first one from our area to be chosen for this."

The week-long program introduced him to the structure of the federal government, including lectures and visits to federal agencies, institutions, memorials and important historical spots around the nation's capital.

The purpose of Boys Nation is to mimic the U.S Senate, each delegate represents his home state as a senator

However, the journey to get there is difficult. To begin, Henderson was one of three West Liberty High School students chosen to attend the Iowa American Legion Hawkeye Boys State in Johnston early last June.

Henderson, Riley Anderson and Troy Heick were selected in a vote by the Rotary Club, the American Legion and the Lions Club in West Liberty

At Boys State, Henderson and Jacob Pence, of Cedar Falls High School, were chosen from a group of 500 Iowans to go to state.

While in Washington, D.C the boys held various senate sessions in Marymount University. They formed committees of four or five individuals that introduced and debated bills. Bills that made it past these committees were voted on by the entire group.

Henderson's bill, on citizenship, was one of only 12 to 15 bills that not only made it to the floor, but was approved by the entire mock senate. The bill, which lowered the age for citizenship, passed 94 to 4.

However, Henderson's most memorable moment of the trip occurred when President Obama addressed the group and took pictures with them.

Among the famous landmarks Henderson visited was the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Library of Congress, The Iwo Jima Memorial, the Arlington Cemetery and the Capitol Building.

"It was an honor to look around and see the inside of the White House," Henderson said, "Since tours aren't allowed in it anymore."

He met Iowa Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley, as well as sat in on a session of the U.S. Senate.

"It was weird, because most of the time nobody was there except the person speaking and a few others," he said.

Many famous politicians have participated in Boys Nation, including former U. S. President Bill Clinton. As for Henderson, the trip has opened up many possibilities for his future.

"I never really thought about being a politician for a career, but now I think I'll keep that possibility open," he said. "Getting selected was well worth it, I learned a lot about D.C."

Henderson is actively involved in athletic and academic activities, including the dual language program at the high school.

Now that the trip is over, he plans to keep the relationships going he formed with the other participants.

"I can tell these boys are going places, the conversations you have with these people you can't have with anyone else," he said."
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