By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Ryan Edsall rose to the fore of the Oregon Boys State Leadership Academy in June, but he had to step up his game after being elected a senator and state representative to the Boys Nation assembly last month in Washington, D.C.
Fortunately, he was up to the challenge. Each of the 98 senators had to propose a bill to the general assembly and Edsall’s was one of only 15 to clear final voting and be “signed” into law.
“It was a hard process because those 97 other kids were just hawks. They were smart and knew the issues and they asked good questions. I answered those to the best of my ability and they appreciated the answers,” Edsall said.
Edsall’s bill, the Veterans Administration Healthcare Choice Act, proposed to alleviate pressure on the Veterans Administration by allowing vets to use primary care providers if they cannot be seen by a VA doctor within 14 days. The veterans would pay a $10 copay while the U.S. government picked up the rest of the tab, making use of a .08 percent excise tax increase on military equipment sold to non-U.S. entities.
“I tried to keep politics out of it, but even then there was some opposition,” Edsall said.
In addition, to his individual achievements, Edsall and the rest of the delegates got about 10 minutes with President Barack Obama.
They even sang him a round of Happy Birthday.
“It made him a real person and not just another face on the TV. We really got to talk with a lot of people who came from humble beginnings and rose to office,” Edsall said.
A three-star general spoke with the delegation on a visit to the Pentagon, and there were lots of delegate run-ins with politicians and broadcast journalists who cover the Washington-based beats.
While trying to get his own bill passed, Edsall was part of a committee that tackled any proposed bills covering a diverse spectrum of topics including small business, agriculture and armed forces.
“There was one that didn’t pass the committee I was in, but it proposed joining NASA and the Air Force. I’m not even sure I agree with it, but it’s kept me thinking. I thought it was an interesting idea, and not one I expected to see at Boys Nation,” Edsall said. “We had one from North Carolina that was a honeybee bill. It really helped me understand how problems are different from region to region.”
The delegates visited numerous sites throughout the area. Edsall, who hopes to become a Marine in the not-too-distant future, was struck most deeply by the war memorials.
When he got the chance to explore on his own, Edsall opted to visit the Supreme Court and take a tour of the Capitol, which included the tunnels running underneath it.
Back home, Edsall is preparing for his senior year at McNary High School and he’ll be working hard to secure a congressional recommendation for the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
What he took away from the whole experience as part of Boys Nation seems to have added fuel to an already fiercely-burning fire.
“There are a lot of kids out there who are committed and driven toward public service. I hope I can one day be just as dedicated and committed as they are already,” Edsall said.