From senior class president to state delegate, Kennedee Slaydon had a great summer at the American Legion Boys State program.
One of five delegates recognized at the American Legion Chris Kyle Post 388’s meeting Sept. 10 at the Midlothian Civic Center, Slaydon was nominated alongside Midlothian ISD peers Tanner Buford and Kayla Aston to attend the American Legion Boys and Girls State programs in June.
The conferences were held at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas Lutheran University, respectively, and educated high school seniors on what goes on behind the scenes of local, county and state governments. MISD seniors Landon Ledbetter and Jamison Price were unable to attend the meeting Monday.
“I’ve never been big into government stuff, and I pretty much went in blind,” Aston said. “Now I feel like I could run the country.”
Founded in 1935 in Chicago, Illinois, the American Legion was created to educate youth on the legislative processes that take place at the local and state level. Students launched mock campaigns, held elections and ran the government to the best of their ability.
“It’s split between two parties; the federalists and the nationalists,” Slaydon said. “Whichever side you’re on, that’s the group you run with; kind of like our current Democratic system.”
Excited to participate with over 1,000 other boys in their elections, Slaydon quickly found out that politics wasn’t all smiles and handshakes. He learned that a lot of effort went into campaigns and elections, much of which felt tedious and monotonous.
“Before I just had the general idea of if you wanted to be elected, you just put your name out there and ask people to vote for you,” Slaydon expressed. “It completely changed my idea of it. Learning people’s names, face-to-face contact, shaking hands, getting signatures from people, meeting new people that aren’t necessarily in your city: it was an eye-opener for sure to realize the different facets that are involved in politics.”
Slaydon was elected as county, city and state delegate for his group. Aston was the county precinct chair and was her party’s nominee for land commissioner, but she lost her election. Buford went through 12 runoffs before he was elected mayor for his city.
“We had some kids stay up really late preparing for things,” Buford recalled. “One kid stayed up until three. We had to force him to go to bed.”
Even though she felt disappointed in losing the election for land commissioner, Aston said she was honored to be her party’s nominee and felt humbled to speak to her 700 constituents after the election.
“To give that final speech in front of all of Girl's State was an experience that blew my mind,” she recalled. “I couldn’t believe I stood up there.”
Slaydon said he learned a lot about making a personable connection with people you don’t know, and he plans to take that experience with him while pursuing a business degree in college.
“I feel like in our generation, that could be lost with the texting and different messaging capabilities we have,” he said. “In today’s world, no matter what, it’s always good to talk to people face-to-face.”
Eight sponsors helped the five delegates go to Boys and Girls State in June. Commander William Coakley said he would like to expand their post to Waxahachie and send more kids next year, but they need more sponsors before they can do so.
“We’re going to cover half this county because nobody else is covering it, and I don’t want to see any kids left out,” Coakley said. “There’s no limit except for applicants and money.”
Even though he's grateful for the learning experience, Slaydon said he plans to leave politics behind in Austin.
“I got elected senior class president this year,” Slaydon said. “I think that’s as far as I’m gonna go.”
To donate or become a sponsor for the American Legion Chris Kyle Post 388, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the national website at www.legion.org.
David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX