2016-07-15 / Neighbors

Stewart tabbed for meeting of ‘young leaders’

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Quinn Stewart Quinn Stewart Scarborough High School senior Quinn Stewart will represent Maine on the national scene yet again when he heads to Boys Nation, a collection of young leaders, many with political aspirations, later this month.

Boys Nation represents the coming together of young men who have been chosen by their peers in local Boys State program. Stewart was chosen as one of the two representatives of the Dirigo Boys State program.

“I was extremely excited that I was selected. There were a ton of qualified individuals,” Stewart said.

Dirigo Boys State is a five-day learning experience at Thomas College in Waterville that, according to its website, “gives each young leader an opportunity to learn that being a Maine citizen is about advanced citizenship and that we share in the fundamental responsibility to be involved in local and state government, even at the simplest level when we vote.”

“The main goal is to teach people more about local government by having speakers from Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to people involved in the judicial process,” Stewart said.

The program, which began in Maine in 1947, brings together rising seniors from all across the state. Town Councilor Shawn Babine, who serves as Dirigo Boys State’s political and legislation director, said more than 200 boys participated in this year’s event. Babine said typically there are three boys from Scarborough who participate in Boys State and three girls who participate in Girls State, a similar program, but this year Stewart was Scarborough’s sole representative.

“Young men who are graduating juniors and who are going into their senior year are selected by their schools and American Legion post to participate in a five-day immersion program, where we teach them about community stewardship and why the democratic process is so very important at the local level. We teach them how to run for local office,” said Babine, who has been involved with the program since 1986.

The aim of Boys State, which is sponsored by the American Legion, is to mimic how government works from the federal level right down to the local level. To that end, during the five-day event individuals are elected as representatives of the three federal branches of government, as well as local and state leaders.

Stewart was elected the 59th governor of Boys State and the first from Scarborough. Babine said Stewart had the strong leadership and oratory skills needed for the governor position, in which Stewart crafted a mock state budget and reviewed mock pieces of legislation drafted by Boys State legislators.

“He is a very strong speaker and presenter,” Babine said of Stewart, who has represented Maine in several national speech and debate events since he joined Scarborough’s club at the beginning of freshman year. Stewart most recently took part in the 2016 National Speech and Debate Tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah, finishing 22nd in the nation in his category.

His speech and debate skills, Stewart said, came in handy during his Boys State experience.

“It teaches strategy, how to politick and gives you a better sense of the political process,” Stewart said of speech and debate. “Boys State only helps to reinforce that.”

Boys State, he said, has also reinforced his desire to run for political office in the future.

“Running for office is something I’ve wanted to do for awhile. This reinforces that idea for me,” said Stewart, who wants to attend college in the Washington D.C. area and become a lawyer and politician.

Stewart said his time at Boys Nation, which will take place from July 22 to July 29, will help him better understand how the government works on the national level. The trip includes speakers, legislative sessions, and visits to some of the monuments and memorials around the nation’s capital.

“I see this as a huge opportunity to see how different, how exciting and how challenging the federal process can be,” Stewart said.

Babine said the goal of the program is not necessarily to mold future legislators and politicians, but to teach leadership skills at a young age.

“It’s about teaching to care and care about those things that impact society no matter what end of the political spectrum you may be,” he said.

Previous Boys State participants include astronaut Neil Armstrong; former NBC “Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokow; entertainers Garth Brooks, Mark Wahlberg and Jon Bon Jovi; as well as noted politicians, including former President Bill Clinton; former Vice President Dick Cheney; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; former Sens, Tom Daschle and Trent Lott; Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and many sports figures, including New York Knicks President Phil Jackson and University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

Maine representatives have included Dunlap, former Govs. John McKernan and John Baldacci, Cumberland County Manager Peter Creighton and former Scarborough Town Councilors Patrick O’Reilly and Mark Maroon.

O’Reilly, who served on the council from 2001 to 2006, said he learned about the importance of community involvement from two social studies teachers he had at Scarborough High School, John Lewis and Sylvia Fengler.

“They always fostered that sort of thing in people,” he said.

Boys State, which he attended in 1986, was a good way to continue that civic involvement.

“It definitely prepared me for the things I got involved with in college, the town council and the other boards I’ve sat on,” said O’Reilly, who is a former trustee of the Scarborough Public Library, a current director of the Scarborough Land Trust and has been involved in a number of town committees over the years. “(Boys State) has always been a fond memory for me and a great learning experience.”

Babine did not attend Boys State as a high school student, but as a volunteer, he has taken its message to heart.

“Being a volunteer for Boys State inspired me to run for the school board and town council,” said Babine, who served on the Scarborough Board of Education from 2000 to 2002 and the town council from 2002 to 2011 and 2014 to present.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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