SUBSCRIBE NOW Just 99¢ for your first month



Boys Nation delegates both from Mitchell

Although they can't register to vote yet, Luke Bartl and Joe Morgan will fly to the nation's capital this month for a week of politics and elections.

Boys Nation double threat
Joe Morgan, left, and Luke Bartl are pictured recently at the Mitchell Public Library, where they discussed bills they will present at Boys Nation beginning July 19 in Washington, D.C. Both delegates will be seniors at Mitchell High School. (Braley Dodson/Republic)
We are part of The Trust Project.

Although they can't register to vote yet, Luke Bartl and Joe Morgan will fly to the nation's capital this month for a week of politics and elections.

Bartl and Morgan, who will both be seniors in the fall at Mitchell High School, were chosen by the American Legion as South Dakota's two delegates for Boys Nation. It's the first time that both of the state's delegates have been from the same school. In the past, there have been delegates from the same city, including Sioux Falls, but they've been from different schools in the city.

"It's unusual that we get two boys from the same town," said Dennis Brenden, executive officer of South Dakota's American Legion. "When we interview them, we have no idea of what towns they are from."

The boys found out they were the delegates at the last day of Boys State. When Morgan heard Bartl's name announced, he thought his summer of politics was finished.

"I thought, 'Shoot, they already picked someone from Mitchell,' " Morgan said. "Sure enough, my name got called."


Due to the order the delegates were announced, Bartl initially thought he was an alternate.

"It was probably 15, 20 seconds," Bartl said. "I shook hands, and then, just to double check, they said, 'No, you're going to Boys Nation.' That time I was pretty excited."

Bartl and Morgan were chemistry partners last year and are both involved in multiple school activities and hold academic honors.

The boys will arrive July 19 in Washington, D.C., for a week of mock debates, elections and legislative sessions, many of which will be webcast live on

Boys Nation, an annual program run by the American Legion, gives high school students the opportunity to simulate running a country. At Boys State, the students ran mock state and city governments.

At the national program, students will draft bills, run for office and face off between the fictional Federalist and Nationalist parties. In addition, the boys will tour national monuments, meet with senators and possibly meet President Barack Obama.

The American Legion pays for the cost of the trip and program.

The boys were selected after displaying leadership qualities at the Boys State program in Aberdeen earlier this summer. Out of 350 boys attending Boys State, 22 were recommended by their Boys State counselors to be a delegate for Boys Nation. The counselors stayed with the boys in dorms throughout the duration of Boys State and acted as the boys' guardians for the week. Each counselor was assigned to a "city" of 20 boys.


After the American Legion receives the recommendations, it interviews the candidates.

"There's no magic wand that says this is what you need to be in Boys Nation," Brenden said.

Boys Nation will bring together 98 boys. Hawaii does not participate in Boys Nation.

At the Boys State program, the boys were elected to multiple positions. Morgan was elected as the mayor of San Antonio and the majority leader in the Senate, along with being appointed to the governor's cabinet.

"You realize how much time has to go into electing the officials, creating the government, and insuring the public safety and welfare," Morgan said. "It was really an eye opener to see how much preparation it takes to make sure your government was running efficiently."

Bartl was elected as the mayor of Chicago, a county secretary and a state representative.

Outside of Boys Nation, Bartl is an active participant in debate and was on the football team. After high school, he plans to pursue biochemistry or study pre-pharmacy in college, and is considering majoring in political science.

Although he plans on pursuing politics in college, Morgan leans toward music. He participates in show choir, marching band, drama and the school musical. He plays the trombone, is a drum major for the marching band and plays the guitar, in addition to being an Eagle Scout. Morgan said he is drawn to politics as a career choice due to the evolving political landscape and changes in the use of media.


"There are major issues that need tracking," Morgan said. "Our generation is the generation to do it."

Morgan said that in addition to meeting new people, he's looking forward to possibly meeting President Obama, learning about issues in other parts of the country and grasping the scope of the operations of the national government.

"Even two kids from South Dakota really do get a say," Morgan said. "It doesn't matter who you are and where you're from, you can definitely make a difference."

For Boys Nation, Morgan will not make a play to be elected president, but rather would prefer to be the vice president.

"Don't mark me as unambitious, but I know there'll be a lot of competition for that spot," Morgan said. "As the vice president, you are presiding over the body of senators and can watch the magic happen."

Bartl is still unsure of what position he may run for, but learned about the frustrations associated with campaigns at Boys State.

"I found out how extremely hard it is to raise enough funds for city government and how many positions there are at local government," Bartl said. "There's a lot more things that go into it than most people realize."

Bartl said he looks forward to the debate aspect of Boys Nation.

The boys will enter Boys Nation as senators. Bartl and Morgan have differing views on several issues, but still plan to strategize before boarding the plane to the capital. The two will exchange the bills they wrote for Boys Nation and discuss current events.

Hugh Holmes, a retired math teacher at Mitchell High School and a Boys State chairman, said both students were in the top 10 percent of their class. Mitchell High School has sent delegates to Boys Nation before, but not for several years. Last year, both South Dakota delegates were from Sioux Falls, but attended separate schools. Both delegates have been from the same city on three separate years, but this is the first time both were from the same school in South Dakota.

"We have outstanding kids," Holmes said. "I had them both in my class a year ago, and they were very good students."

Related Topics: EDUCATION
What to read next
Soil Health School includes classroom presentations and discussions as well as field tours and exercises.
Take care when shopping for vehicles online, officials say
The DOH said they continue to work with WIC nutrition program participants to ensure access to safe formula alternatives as a result of the national formula shortage.
"If nobody does end up getting closer to our number, that seems like a viable option to work with Mitchell Area Housing Incorporated and get a single-family residential home built in that spot,” Mitchell City Council member Jeff Smith said of the future options of the lot