ALBANY, Ga. -- The last year a Dougherty County resident had been selected to the American Legion's Boys Nation, Davidson Goldsmith had yet to be born.
Davidson, 17, will represent Albany, at the upcoming 64th annual Boys Nation in Washington, D.C., July 23-31.
The rising senior at Deerfield-Windsor School will serve the Federalist Party when he participates in a mock Senate representing Georgia. Macon's Stuart Veal will represent the Nationalist Party and will be the state's other representative. They are two of the 98 representatives from across the country scheduled to attend the event. Hawaii doesn't have a Boys Nation program.
Like his uncle, Robert Goldsmith, Davidson was selected for Boys Nation after participating in Boys State. Davidson was elected a city councilman and judge of the court of appeals for Madison County during his Boys State experience from June 13-19 at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.
"We are really proud of the effort Davidson puts into any activity, and he kept moving forward through the ups and downs of the week," said his father, Dr. Stuart Goldsmith, who also attended Boys State. "There are many facets to the Boys State experience, including self-discovery. ... When Davidson and I talked the night before he found out that he had been selected for Boys Nation, I thought that he felt good about his experience. So, as far as I was concerned, the week had already been a success.
"Davidson really enjoys the people aspect of these opportunities, and with his interest in government, we thought that he might have a chance to get selected for Boys Nation," he continued. "There still has to be a lot of luck and some people pulling for you to get chosen. I couldn't be prouder that my brother, and now one of my sons, has received that honor."
Davidson will spent the nine days in Washington, learning the structure as well as the functions of the federal government, according to information from the American Legion's website. Each delegate will act as a senator from his home state.
"The young lawmakers caucus at the beginning of the session, then organize into committees and conduct hearings on bills submitted by program delegates," the website states. "Senators learn the proper method of handling bills, according to U.S. Senate rules. Participation in the political process is emphasized throughout the week, including organization of party conventions and nominating and electing a president and vice president."
Besides the government training, the rising seniors will also participate in forums, lectures and will visit historical sites, federal agencies, memorials and meet with elected officials from their home state on Capitol Hill. They will also take field trips to the White House, Arlington National Cemetery, the Supreme Court, the Department of State and the National Mall.
Davidson, who has two younger siblings, called the chance to attend Boys Nation amazing.
"Honestly, I wasn't selected to any top positions (at Boys State), but I was just surprised," he said of his Boys Nation section. "There was 100 other guys that could've been selected for it, but I'm just appreciative of the opportunity that the American Legion (Post 30) gave me."
Although he enjoys debating issues, Davidson said his joy fades when the discussion turns to politics.
"If there's anything Boys State taught me, it's how you actually get elected," he said. "It's not based on the issues so much as whether you're remembered or not. I never realized the significance of shaking hands and making campaign slogans. There was just under 400 people to meet (at Boys State), and if you didn't have a catchy slogan or something to remember you by, the chances of getting voted for are definitely smaller."
Robert Goldsmith, an Atlanta attorney, said he had nothing but fond memories of his Boys Nation trip in 1972. He remembered staying at American University, attending a news conference with Vice President Spiro Agnew and having lunch with Senator Herman Talmadge. He also recalled spending half a day at the Naval Academy and riding a PT boat up the Severn River to Chesapeake Bay.
"I'd do it again in a minute," said Robert Goldsmith, 54, a 1973 Deerfield graduate. "It will enhance his appreciation not only of American government, but America in general. The people from each state are so impressive. You could really tell just by the way they spoke and the way they acted that they were people that were truly concerned citizens that had it within them to be public servants in the future. I really believe the people he'll be exposed to will be future leaders and will come away proud to be Americans. There's really a patriotic aspect to it."
Kim Goldsmith said the circumstances that allowed her son to even attend both Boys State and Boys Nation still amaze her. Earlier in the year, Davidson was picked as Deerfield's Governor's Honors nominee but wouldn't be able to go to Boys State and Boys Nation, since the two programs overlapped.
However, when he didn't get selected for Governor's Honors, the conflict was eliminated. Davidson immediately called his mentor, Judge Joe Bishop, who attended Boys Nation in 1974, to find out if he could still apply for Boys State.
Later, when his mother attended his Boys State commencement, Davidson wanted to surprise her and his 12-year-old sister, Emma, with his Boys Nation selection.
"Davidson knew from talking to Judge Bishop and others that Boys State was going to be very competitive, and that it would require careful strategy," Kim Goldsmith said. "He was a little discouraged when he didn't win his first election for an office, state senator. He won his next election, though, as judge of the court of appeals. He didn't tell us when he was one of the boys selected to be interviewed for Boys Nation.
"His sister, Emma, and I drove over to Statesboro to attend the commencement exercises," she added. "We both were totally shocked when Davidson was announced as one of the two boys to attend Boys Nation. We all were very proud that Davidson kept trying to do as much as he could all week."
Deerfield Headmaster Dave Davies said Davidson's selection to Boys Nation wasn't completely unexpected considering Davidson's varied skills and outgoing personality.
"All of us at Deerfield-Windsor are extremely proud of Davidson, although it is no surprise that he was chosen for this prestigious honor," Davies said. "A top student, varsity athlete and quiet leader among his peers, Davidson would impress decisionmakers in a short time as he obviously did at Boys State."
Davidson said he is appreciative of everyone who made his upcoming trip to Boys Nation possible.
"I'd like to thank the American Legion Post 30, Ted Wright, Joe Bishop and the whole Boys State staff who gave me this opportunity," he said. "I strongly encourage anyone who was maybe thinking about attending Boys State or hasn't even heard about it to inquire about it. I'm just thankful for the opportunity."
Although other alumni have been elected state governors, legislators and congressmen, former President Clinton is the only Boys Nation participant to reach the Oval Office after attending the event in 1962.