The speech, a tradition for all but one of Boys State's 76 years, almost didn't happen, because of a conflict with the wrapping up of the state legislature, Mr. Kasich said.
"I thought we were signing the budget bill today. It turned out we got it done yesterday," he said.
Mr. Kasich, speaking at Bowling Green State University to an outdoor assembly of about 1,200 boys who just completed their junior year of high school, gave a loosely organized talk of about 20 minutes.
"The most important thing I have found is a relationship and friendship with the Lord," said Mr. Kasich. "It's worth trying to get that connection with the most powerful force in the universe, to work with you to give the power to do a lot of good things."
He told the students he lost his parents to an accident with a drunk driver in 1987, and the experience pushed him to confront his beliefs about God. He said his decision to have faith has given him a feeling that his purpose in life is God-given.
Boys play parts in city, county, and state government activities in the camp.
They run for governor and lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, secretary of state, and Supreme Court justice, under one of two parties — Nationalist and Federalist.
Other boys are appointed to positions in the legislature, in county government, and other positions, which include running a daily newspaper.
A similar event for girls is handled by the women's auxiliary of the American Legion. After his Bowling Green stop, Governor Kasich headed to address that group, at the University of Mount Union in Alliance.
He told the boys they all were obviously good students to have been selected for Boys State and likely had some leadership qualities, and said they should not neglect academics, they should follow their dreams, and they should make friends who will support them in their goals.
"You don't want to be hanging around dream snatchers," Mr. Kasich said.
He also urged them to take college courses that will allow them to be successful, mentioning finance, engineering, and medicine. He said that even if they plan a future in politics they shouldn't think that the only route is to major in political science.
Mr. Kasich said he was troubled by a trend of people looking out only for themselves. He pointed out that many of the students present may be the most popular kids in their schools.
"Are you talking to the least popular kids? Pay attention to the ones that are ignored," he said.
As an example of the government playing that part, he cited recent efforts to root out human trafficking, including the case last Saturday in which two teenage girls were rescued on I-75. A truck driver was charged with kidnapping them.
"You know how that made the Lord smile?" Mr. Kasich said.
Mr. Kasich, 60, a native of McKees Rocks, Pa., came to Ohio at the age of 18 to attend Ohio State University. He served one term in the state Senate and was in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 to 2001, when he left to pursue a career in business and media. A Republican, he was elected governor in 2010.
The speech seemed to be well received.
But one boy went up to the governor afterward and told him he was wrong. Alex Hall, 18, of Portsmouth, clarified that he loved the speech.
"He said we're a team. I don't agree that we're a team. I agree we're a family. It takes a lot more compassion to be a family," Mr. Hall said.
Student Nicholas Walther, 17, of Pandora also loved the governor's remarks.
"I believe that it's good to have a higher purpose and it's good to have something to live for," young Walther said. His goal is to attend Ohio State University and then medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon.
Andrew Baker, 17, of Warren, said of Mr. Kasich's remarks, "It was very motivational. It gave me ideas of success."
The governor gave the students what he said was good news about the economy — an increase in the number of jobs in the state by 19,600 in May compared with April.
Contact Tom Troy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058.