"Be thinkers as you go through life," State Rep. Steve Holland advised more than 380 Boys State delegates Thursday [May 29] at Mississippi State University.
"Decide what you want to be. Work hard at it. Think outside the box. Think above and beyond today because when you're in the political arena, the decision you make today affects folks way, way on down the road," the Plantersville native said to the high school students who have come from all over Mississippi to learn about state and local government and the electoral process.
A member of the Mississippi Legislature since 1984, Holland serves as state representative for Lee County. The vice chairman of the House Local and Private Legislation Committee, Holland's other committee memberships include the Fees and Salaries of Public Officers, Tourism, Transportation, Ways and Means, and Youth and Family Affairs committees.
Holland also is the former aide to longtime Mississippi congressman Jamie Whitten and current U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).
His wife, the former Gloria Temple, is the mayor of Plantersville.
In addition to his legislative duties, Holland is president of Lee Memorial Funeral Home in Tupelo and Okolona Funeral Home in Okolona and has farming interests in Lee and Monroe counties.
The MSU business information systems graduate told delegates that he considers Boys State to be "the pre-eminent civic development organization for guys your age.
"It made a great difference in my life," said Holland, who also attended Northwest Mississippi Community College.
Shaping one's political philosophy is very important, he emphasized.
"Be a little academic. Don't just follow the crowd. Think about the consequences of what you believe today and how it affects tomorrow, which is hard to do."
Holland also urged Boys State participants to "never quit reading books.
"Go to an independent bookstore and buy one book, hold it in your hand and read it from cover to cover at least once. It's a great experience."
In encouraging delegates to take lessons from this week at Boys State, Holland shared a few of his own.
"As you go through college, get involved in the campus government...Someday, an opportunity may open.
"You don't have to be in public office to be a good public servant. Support candidates. Support causes. Believe strongly in them and fight tenaciously to the bitter end," he said.
Considered the nation's premier program for teaching young men how government works, developing leadership skills and nurturing an appreciation for the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, Mississippi American Legion Boys State will be held on the MSU campus through 2015.
Learn more about Boys State at www.msboysstate.com.
MS Boys State can be found on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mississippi-American-Legion-Boys-State/125360164145801 and Twitter @MS_Boysstate.
For more information about Mississippi State University, see www.msstate.edu.