BHS senior comes close to Boys Nation presidency

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Brookhaven High School senior nearly succeeded in winningelection as the president of the United States at the AmericanLegion Boys Nation 2007 conference in Arlington, Va., Tuesday.

“I got the nomination from the Federalist Party, but I lost thepresidency,” said James Wesley Dennis, who was elected governor ofBoys State during the Mississippi event in May.

Dennis, 17, lost the election by eight votes, recording 45 ofthe 98 ballots cast by state delegates to the national program.Benjamin Wallace, of Delaware, was elected president.

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“It was a great run. I feel good about myself,” Dennis said.

Boys Nation is modeled on federal government, with electedofficials acting in the capacity of their office during theconference. The activity is designed to give delegates anunderstanding of elections and government.

“It’s such an honor to get where he did. We’re real proud ofhim,” said Morgan Shands, site chairman for the Mississippi BoysState.

Delegates to Boys Nation are chosen during the annual AmericanLegion Boys State conferences held in states nationwide.

Mississippi Boys State is the only program that allows itsdelegates to choose its senators for Boys Nation, Shands said. Inother state programs, the delegates are chosen by the staff.

Nathan Nunnelee, of Tupelo, who served as lieutenant governor atthe Boys State program in May, was also chosen to representMississippi at Boys Nation. Boys Nation began July 20 and endsSaturday.

This year was the first time in Mississippi that both thegovernor and lieutenant governor were chosen to represent the stateat the national level.

“It’s a credit to the young men to be chosen,” Shands said.”(Dennis) is a great leader – not only at his school, but also atchurch – and then he’s chosen to lead his party at Boys Nation.What a great success story.”

Only two Boys Nation senators from Mississippi in the pastquarter decade have captured the Boys Nation presidency, Shandssaid. Marcus Dillworth, of Yazoo City, won the office in the late1980s and Andrew Flatguard, of Jackson, secured the election in1991.

Dennis, the son of James and Cassandra Dennis of Brookhaven, ranon a campaign to fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act.

The “bill” would establish a lottery in each state to fundeducation. A similar law in Georgia has collected $8.8 billion ineducation funding for the state, he said.

“Education should be a primary priority,” Dennis said.

Dennis is also urging the passage of a resolution he introducedto the Senate to mandate all public schools institute a program toeducate students in sensitivity to the mentally disabled.

In addition to learning about government, delegates to the 2007session of Boys Nation will visit Arlington National Cemetery, theU.S. Department of State, the White House and Capitol Hill. Todayis the highlight of the trip for Dennis, who plans to major inpolitical science and law to help him pursue a career inpolitics.

“Tomorrow we get to meet President Bush,” Dennis said Tuesdaynight. “I’m excited about that. He’s unpredictable. You never knowwhat the president will say. I think he’ll have inspiring words forus.”

However, Dennis is not short on inspiration. Soft-spoken andquiet, he said the loss of the presidency did not shake hisconfidence for future prospects.

“In a few years, I’m running for District 53 House ofRepresentatives Tell Bobby Moak I’m warning him now,” Dennisjoked.

Moak, of Bogue Chitto, is unopposed in the Aug. 7 Democraticprimary. He faces a challenge by Constitution Party candidate CarlMason in November.