Meeting President Barack Obama was always a dream for Bristol teen Ross Hogan.
Ross wasn’t always the president’s number one fan, but with the his age came wisdom and a greater respect for the Leader of the Free World.
“The aura he put off was just amazing,” Ross, 17, recalled of his audience with the president in the East Wing of the White House recently. The president talked about Ross and his group being the leaders of tomorrow.
Ross, who will be a senior at Mt. Hope High School this fall, was one of two students in Rhode Island chosen to participate in Boys Nation, a youth program sponsored by the American Legion. From July 19-26, Ross and 97 other students from 49 states descended upon the nation’s capitol to partake in various aspects of U.S. government.
Each student served as a senator from his respective state. They held a caucus at the beginning of the week, elected a president and organized themselves into committees. From there, they drafted mock legislation and held hearings to discuss the bills.
“It was a very humbling experience,” Ross said. “We were surrounded by so many different people, with different backgrounds and we had to work together to get things to pass.”
The students also participated in lectures, forums and visits to many federal agencies, national shrines, institutions, memorials and historical sites in Washington, D.C.
“I met with Sen. (Jack) Reed, which was great because I never thought I’d meet the people who represent Rhode Island,” Ross said.
The bill Ross and his committee worked to pass became more of a resolution. Rather than readopt, or continue with the current assault weapons ban, Ross and fellow delegates opted to “let the sun set” on that law.
“We wanted it to phase out,” he said, “because I believe that the term ‘assault weapon’ was really made to scare people. The description of an actual assault weapon is not what’s being talked about in the actual bill.”
Ross and fellow delegates would carry their political and human rights conversations into dinner, and late into the evening.
“It was fascinating to see how others felt about things, like abortion, and why they believed one way or the other,” he said.
Ross recounted one delegate from Alabama who he said, “told everyone that if we go along with the assault weapons ban then we’re all un-American.”
A precursor to Boys Nation is Boys State, where students from high schools throughout Rhode Island descend upon the state capitol and partake in state-level government. Ross was chosen from his participation at Boys State to attend Boys Nation.
Both programs are all-inclusive: travel, accommodations, meals.
“I had never heard of these programs before now,” he said. “And I’m very happy to have been able to go. It was an eye-opening experience.”
Ross, is a member of the National Honor Society and is the senior class president. He said the knowledge he gained over the summer will greatly help him lead the study body government.
“You learn to listen and hear where other people are coming from, and to respect their points of view,” he said.
Following high school, Ross hopes to attend the Naval Academy and become a commissioned officer in the U.S. Marines Corps.