From the ‘Middle of Nowhere’ to the ‘Heart of the Nation’

In what could be considered a once in a lifetime experience, Dalton Sand of Glasgow and Cole Taylor of Larslan recently found themselves touring the halls of Congress With Senator Steve Daines (R-MT).

“I don’t think it would be as cool as it was being there without Senator Steve Daines,” Sand told The Courier, recounting his time in the United States Capitol rotunda, surrounded by larger than life statues of great American statesman. “It was just us, [Daines] and his staff. It was amazing because we got to be with the senator. He showed us around and showed us all the statues with the quotes. It was an amazing experience. It opened my eyes to how great this country is.”

Sand and Taylor, both high school seniors in Valley County, were attending Boys Nation in Washington D.C. when they were invited to the Capitol building by Daines. Boys Nation is an annual conference hosted by the American Legion each summer. 

Sand and Taylor were joined on the tour by fellow students John Chadwell of Big Sky and Cole Basler of Belgrade. 

All four boys had attended Boys State 2021 in early June at Carroll College in Helena. 

According to the American Legion, Boys State is among one of the most respected educational programs of government instruction for high school students. At Montana American Legion Boys State, emphasis was given to the elective democratic process and the legislative, bill-writing activities found throughout American government. During the week long conference in Helena, each delegate participated in a variety of government situations at the city, county and state levels. 

Each year, Montana American Legion Posts select high school incoming high school seniors to attend the program. Two representatives from each of the 49 Boys states participating in the conference represent their state at Boys Nation in Washington, where the young leaders receive additional education on the structure and function of federal government.

Sand and Taylor were both elected to attend Boys Nation, with Chadwell and Basler as potential replacements. 

“Our backups got to go, too, because Pennsylvania didn’t have a Boys State,” Sand said. “They went in Pennsylvania’s name.”

The Montana boys had initially been scheduled only for a virtual meeting with Daines, Sand said. 

“We did the virtual meet, and Senator Daines said he was not really for this virtual stuff.”

Daines then told the four boys he would rather they come to the capitol in person, Sand said. 

“He called the head of the staff at Boys Nation, and they said they couldn’t do that.”

Undeterred, Daines called the head of the American Legion, Sand said, and secured their attendance. 

“No other senator did that for their kids,” Sand said. “It was a crazy experience.”

The boys then spent about four hours with Daines, touring his office and the Senate floor, in addition to the rotunda beneath the Capitol Dome. 

The capitol building was largely deserted during the after hours tour.

“We got to see pretty much the whole thing,” Sand said. “We actually had to wait for some guy to unlock [the Senate floor] for us, and we got down there and [Daines] showed us all the desks, his and all the famous ones. He actually showed us one of the bills they were discussing.”

The experience more than made up for a canceled high school trip to the Capitol last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sand said. 

Additionally, this experience has inspired Sand to potentially seek public office in the future, he said. 

“One hundred percent. Going into Boys State, I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to go forward with a political career. But, after Boys State, I though, ‘OK. This is pretty Cool.’ At Boys Nation, it was like, ‘wow, I could do a lot for this country.'”

Meeting with Daines was also serendipitous for Sand, who is attempting to gain acceptance into the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. 

“I need a nomination from a Senator, so that will help me out in the future, too,” Sand said. “The whole experience really impacted my life. I would really like to thank Senator Steve Daines. That was crazy. No other senator in all the U.S. took their kids to the Capitol. He went out of his way to do that.”

All in all, the week spent at Boys Nation was one Sand and his longtime friend, Taylor, will never forget. 

“We went to a couple of the monuments, but most of our time was spent debating bills and electing politicians,” Sand said. “It was a mock government. There was a lot of debating.”

Back in Glasgow, the future looks bright for Sand, who currently is serving as GHS Student Council Class President.