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Governor meets 'governor': Bowling Green student elected to lead Boys State

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Gov. Ted Strickland speaks to Buckeye Boys State participants at Bowling Green State University yesterday; Nicholas Messenger, newly elected governor of Boys State, looks on.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
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BOWLING GREEN - Gov. Ted Strickland, meet Gov. Nicholas Messenger.

Governor Messenger, 17, is the first Bowling Green High School student to be elected chief executive of Buckeye Boys State since the annual program was founded in 1936.

"What a fine young man he is," Governor Strickland said of Governor Messenger, who will be a senior this fall.

"I told him I'm glad he's not old enough to challenge me in 2010."

Nicholas was one of hundreds of high school seniors selected by American Legion posts across the state to participate in this year's mock government program, which has been held at Bowling Green State University for 30 years.

The annual nine-day gathering is designed to teach boys how the government works, how campaigns are run, and why the democratic process is so important.

The boys began campaigning Saturday for positions in city, county, and state government.

They run their government until Friday, discussing and debating the challenging issues state lawmakers and administrators confront on a daily basis.

"It teaches these kids the way government's supposed to be run," said Bill Strong, a spokesman for the Boys State program.

"They have to do everything here you have to do in real life. They start at the bottom and work their way to the top."

Mr. Strickland visited the boys yesterday and spoke to them about living in a democracy and the importance of knowing what's happening in their government.

"What happens in government affects the way you and I live our lives," he said. "The decisions made in Washington, D.C., in Columbus, Ohio, have a direct impact on the way you live your life in this country.

"You really can't divorce yourself from the political process. It's going to have an effect on you whether you like it or not."

After being elected, Nicholas got to meet privately with Mr. Strickland, who gave him advice on how to run an efficient government and best utilize his cabinet members.

"I was really nervous," Nicholas said of the meeting. "It's an incredible honor to be able to meet privately with the governor of Ohio."

Mr. Strickland also had words of praise for the Boys State program, whose alumni include the likes of Astronaut Neil Armstrong and Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, who last night swore in the program's newly elected government officials.

"Many of my staff are alumni of Boys State and Girls State," Mr. Strickland said.

"It enables young people to get together to talk seriously about government and to experience what it's like to run for office and to try to serve once they're in office."

Andrew Hemmelgarn, of Marion Local High School in Maria Stein, said he wasn't interested in politics before being in the Boys State program.

"I always thought politics was something rich, spoiled kids did," he said. "But then I realized that actually anybody can do it. It's not that hard. If you kind of just have the right mind-set, you can get elected pretty easily."

Contact Chauncey Alcorn at:

calcorn@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.

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