If you’re planning to enter the political wilderness, you’d better Be Prepared.
Fortunately, Eagle Scout Dimitrios Owen is right at home in any wilderness — political or otherwise. He comes equipped with both the Citizenship in the Nation and the Wilderness Survival merit badges.
Dimitri, 16, is one of 100 young men who will represent their home states at this month’s American Legion Boys Nation, considered the ultimate political training ground for young people.
Dimitri’s journey began at Boys State, where 250 boys from across Virginia ran for municipal or statewide office, drafted legislation and forged friendships across party lines.
“Citizenship in the Nation and Citizenship in the Community gave me insight as to how government works so I wasn’t going into Boys State completely blind,” Dimitri says. “As for Wilderness Survival, although I didn’t have to use any of the survival skills at Boys State, I used my quick-thinking skills many times. I learned those skills while building a shelter for the merit badge.”
Thanks to his strong showing at Boys State, Dimitri was one of two Virginians chosen for Boys Nation 2021, which will be held from July 23 to 31 in Washington, D.C.
At Boys Nation, Dimitri and his fellow senators will propose and debate legislation and elect a president, vice president, president pro tempore and Senate secretary from among their ranks.
“I’m looking forward to understanding the legislative process,” says the member of Troop 980 from Springfield, Va., part of the D.C.-based National Capital Area Council. “I didn’t experience that process at Boys State, but I’m excited to make laws at Boys Nation and understand the process of their creation.”
The American Legion and Scouting
Boys State and Boys Nation are put on by the American Legion, which has supported Scouting since 1919. The American Legion offers scholarships for Scouts, and American Legion posts serve as the chartering organization for more than 2,500 Scouting units across the country.
Boys Nation and Scouting have historical ties, too.
At the 16th Boys Nation, held in 1961, a BSA executive spoke at the closing banquet. As described in the November 1961 edition of Scouting magazine, he asked the assembled group how many had been or currently were in Scouting.
“What a thrill it was to watch every hand enthusiastically raised as a spontaneous cheer arose from the young men,” said C.M. Tribur, director of the BSA’s civil relationships service.
If history repeats itself, it’s safe to say that Dimitri won’t be the only current or former Scout at this year’s Boys Nation.
Learning to communicate
Of all the skills Dimitri sharpened in Scouting, communication might be the most important at Boys Nation.
“Scouting helped my communication skills a ton,” he says. “From being senior patrol leader to my Eagle Scout board of review, I needed to communicate my ideas to my troop and to others.”
But even though his strong communication skills might portend a political career, the Eagle Scout has different plans.
“I hope to be a biomedical engineer and work to develop solutions to health problems afflicting the world,” he says. “Scouting will help get me there because of the network that has been opened up to me. There are many former Scouts in the workforce today, and as a Scout, it will be easier for me to meet with them and create potential opportunities.”
But Dimitri knows that Scouting is more than just a nationwide network for job-seekers. It’s essential to creating healthy, happy, productive citizens.
“Our nation needs Scouting today, because it helps focus a lot of energy and talent,” he says. “Without Scouting, young boys and girls wouldn’t be able to apply their energy to activities that require critical thinking, teamwork and perseverance. Instead, they would be stuck in front of a screen and would not gain any real-life experience.”
Some words from Dad
Evan Owen hadn’t heard of Boys State until he saw the critically acclaimed documentary on Apple TV+ about the competition in Texas.
Evan suggested Boys State to his son, who found an exciting new outlet for his talents and passions.
There’s a parenting lesson there: introduce your children to as many different experiences as you can, so they can find their own passions. Evan says Scouting is such an effective program because it does just that — introducing young people to new challenges all the time.
“Through Scouting and merit badges, your children get exposed to lots of things,” he says. “Just make sure you follow up on things that sparked their interest.”
That’s not to say all those “things” will be easy or come naturally to your child. But sometimes the failure is the most valuable part.
“Dimitri is intelligent, athletic and charismatic,” Evan says. “Although he works hard, he has rarely known failure. Scouting has given Dimitri challenges. The challenges of leading Scouts his own age and the challenges of things we would not normally do on a weekend, like canoeing or rock climbing. Succeeding at these different challenges, in turn, gives him confidence.”
Not ready to quit
As a boy, Evan dropped out of Scouting as a Webelos.
The reason, he says, is that “it’s too easy to let your children quit.”
“The best lesson I ever got for Scouting was from our Cubmaster, Dan Ehrlich,” Evan says. “Dan said, ‘young boys are good at doing one thing: quitting. Don’t let them.’”
When you encourage your children to stick with something, it’s amazing what they’ll do. Evan has seen this in his oldest son, Ernest, who is an Eagle Scout like Dimitri.
And he’s seen it in their younger siblings, twins Eva and Alexander, who are on their way to becoming Eagle Scouts in the next couple of years.
Along the way, Evan has experienced proud moments like watching Dimitri earn a spot at Boys Nation. But he has also experienced those little moments that won’t go on a resume but are equally impactful.
“What impresses me most about Dimitri is his self discipline,” Evan says. “He gets that from his mother. I remember one evening inviting him to watch a movie on TV with me. That’s an invitation to goof off from his dad, and what does he say? ‘No thanks, I have French homework.’ Remarkable.”