Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton speaks at Boys State at Catawba

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 22, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — Someday, Alex DiLalla hopes to be wearing a robe and presiding over the Supreme Court. But for now, he’ll settle for serving on the high court at Boys State.
Alex, 16, who attends Raleigh Charter High School, was one of 257 students from high schools throughout the state attending the program this week. Participants are rising high school seniors chosen by American Legion Posts throughout the state to attend.
This is the 73rd annual session of the Tar Heel Boys State, which began Sunday. This is also the ninth straight year it’s been held at Catawba College.
The teens wrapped up this week’s activities by hearing from Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, who spoke about his role in state government. Dalton, a Democrat, is running for governor against Republican Pat McCrory.
Alex admits he didn’t know what to expect from the week-long program.
“I’ve had a really great time,” he said.
What Alex learned this week was about working with others who had different viewpoints and “realizing compromise doesn’t have to be a dirty word,” he said.
The week was challenging, but gave Alex some perspective on not just government, but on what he was capable of doing.
He stayed up one morning writing a speech for his party’s platform.
“I learned about persevering,” Alex said.
Alex sees himself attending law school, becoming a federal prosecutor or even a senator.
“My fantasy is to serve on the federal circuit court,” he said.
His heroes are not pro athletes but supreme court justices.
John Flinn, 17, of Wilson also thinks of a political future.
His grandfather held public office and his mother currently serves as chairman of the school board.
He served as party chair at Boys State.
He, too, was challenged to work alongside others with contrasting opinions.
“There are a lot of different opinions. Sometimes it’s hard to accept others’ opinions, but you have to keep an open mind,” John said.
John attends Fike High School.
Dalton told the students he, too, attended Boys State in the mid-1960s. He joked about being old after the teens were astonished at the 1966 stroll down memory lane.
Dalton said the hot-button issues at that time were civil rights and poverty.
He also talked about education.
“Education is very powerful. You live in a state that has always valued education,” Dalton said.
He challenged the teens to remember the history of North Carolina, how powerful education could be and how powerful opportunity could be.
“You have the potential to be great leaders,” Dalton said.
One of the words of wisdom that elicited applause was when Dalton told the group to “not stereotype anyone, but respect everyone.”
One of the students asked Dalton his feelings on the death penalty, to which he said it was warranted in certain cases, namely those that are especially heinous. Dalton said the death penalty should be reserved for those who deserved that type of punishment.
Camden Ramsey, 17, a student from North Rowan High, liked getting to experience government firsthand.
“You can learn it in history class, but don’t really get to experience it until you experience it firsthand,” he said.
After hearing Dalton speak, Camden said he feels different about the death penalty.
“You shouldn’t repay injury with injury,” he said.
Enloe High School student Josh McLean, 17, acquired insight into politics this week.
“It’s broadened my eyes,” he said, especially being able to work with different sides of the spectrum.
Wagda Hauter, 18, of Henderson, catches the news every evening. He enjoyed the experience of seeing the political and government process unfold before his eyes.
Wagda attends North Vance High.
During the week, the teens were grouped into “cities,” where they organized their own local mock government.
The participants also took on roles as heads of state government and wrote legislative bills.
The program is sponsored by the American Legion and is directed by Charlie Cleary of Hillsborough, who is an American Legion member and a Boys State staff member.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.