Beginning with the decisions made today, delegates to Mississippi American Legion Boys State can make significant changes to their communities and high schools.
State Rep. Toby Barker of Hattiesburg also told the 384 Boys State participants that, after a week-long of leadership activities at Mississippi State, they should leave the university Saturday [May 31] with a plan for the future.
Through 2015, MSU is serving as host campus for the Magnolia State's chapter of the nation's premier program for teaching top high school students how government works, developing leadership skills and fostering appreciation for the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
"If you aren't interesting in running for office, you may wonder why this week will be relevant to you," Barker said.
"This week is absolutely relevant to you," he told the audience members. "What the world doesn't need is another cliché politician; what the world really needs is people who want to make a difference in their community."
Elected at age 25 in 2007 to represent Forrest and Lamar counties, Barker became the state's youngest legislator and first of the Millennial generation to serve in the law-making body. Originally from Meridian, he holds bachelor's and master's degrees from University of Southern Mississippi.
Barker told those assembled that, as the state's best and brightest young men, they should embrace causes worth fighting for and, to do that, make good decisions now.
In addition to completing high school and developing post-graduation plans, Barker encouraged the delegates to find a job, "no matter how humble." He also urged members to wait until marriage to become a parent.
Most importantly, treat every person with respect--no matter what--Barker said.
"When you engage in behavior that is different, that changes things," he continued. "If you claim to be people of faith, and I'm sure many of you do, treat a person as you would want to be treated."
By taking initiatives to create constructive changes in their schools and communities, young people can impact society in many positive ways, he said.
"You have one year of high school left, and there's no reason you can't be the person to make the changes," he said. "They're going to come from individual people like you coming alive and having an impact."
Learn more about Boys State at www.msboysstate.com. Also, follow the organization on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mississippi-American-Legion-Boys-State/125360164145801 and Twitter @MS_Boysstate.
For more information about MSU, see www.msstate.edu.