CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. – What’s the first thing you do when you meet the governor? Well, if you’re 17, you take a selfie with the Kentucky politician. But Casmir Thornberry hopes he’s the guy kids want to take selfies with one day.
“It was pretty funny! He was all for it,” Thornberry said about snapping a selfie with Gov. Steve Beshear.
Aside from the joking around, the soon-to-be senior at Dixie Heights High School has high aspirations and already has the tone of a political mogul.
“I want to be the best voice for the people and whether that’s in law or politics, that’s what I want to do. We need to work together for the greater good of society. Are our representatives the voice of the people? Or the voice of themselves, voice of their own opinion?”
He was that voice for his peers at Boys State at the Wendell Ford Training Base in Greenville, Ky., where about 100 high-achieving teen boys are selected to learn about Kentucky’s political background and he was voted in as their leader.
It was during that mid-June trip, when he and seven met Beshear in Frankfort, Ky.
“Kentucky is fortunate to have thoughtful and talented young leaders like Casmir who are already, at a young age, engaged citizens,” Beshear said of the student who was sponsored by local business owner David Bunten and the American Legion Post 203 in Latonia, Ky.
And on July 18, the well-spoken senior class president, known around school as 'Mr. President', will head to Washington, D.C. for Boys Nation.
Boys State Educates Kentucky’s Future Decision-Makers
Thornberry, who has a 3.95 GPA and scored 31 on his ACT this year, hasn't picked a college yet, but he does know that he will be a double-major in economics and marketing. Then onto law school, he said.
The intern for the Northern Kentucky Republican Party said he didn't know what Boys State was until he was selected and sponsored. But he quickly learned:
“It educates the leaders of Kentucky on history, politics and government,” he said. “Every leader who loves the state of Kentucky should do this program."
"It opens you to connections that you’ll be using for the rest of your life. [We] are the future leaders of Kentucky and the country,” Thornberry said of the program that has been around since the 1940s and includes all states. In fact, President Bill Clinton was a Boys State honoree in his teens, representing Arkansas.
Separated into barracks, students stay on an active military base and become part of the operation of local, county and state government, including forming their own cities and political parties—each barrack its own city. Following those distinctions, they held elections and cabinet members were elected.
Thornberry ran for top office: Governor.
His platform and election speech captured the young voters.
“I talked about who might best lead—about the importance of unity and you need a good leader to do that. Stand united. I asked them to let me be their leader to their next destiny.”
“I won by an overwhelming majority,” he said.
Representing His School, State In Nation’s Capital
Thornberry, who will gain more political experience in Washington while representing his school, has already done a pretty decent job being the voice of his classmates as class president--a seat he's been voted into since he was a freshman.
“I’ve opened up a line of communication between the students and administration,” Thornberry said, including one very heated issue: prohibited smoking in the bathroom.
“We’ve made it very clear that it needs to stop and something needs to be done about [it].”
The class president was also instrumental in creating the first-ever academic pep rally at Dixie Heights.
“Sports are very important, but there are other aspects of Dixie we’d like to show our area,” Thornberry said. “Rarely are academic students recognized in front of the entire school.”
The first, however, was a bit… lackluster.
“It wasn’t filled with pep,” he said. “But we voiced that displeasure to the administration and the second was more fun-filled.”
“It’s a continuing process of what’s affecting the students at the time. We can work together to come up with the best solution,” he said of using his political savvy to his advantage.
Other than delving head first into the political arena, the studious Thornberry does have hobbies, including running cross-country and being choir director at the Madison Avenue Baptist Church, where he said, “It’s such a loving close atmosphere. I don’t have to be my politicized self—it’s nice to take a reprieve from that.”
And of course mock trial.
“I love studying the law. I love the feeling of being in a courtroom, meeting new people in the community.”
And his school loves him.
"I am very proud of Casmir's
hard work and student leadership. It is exciting that he will be representing the Kenton County School District in Washington, D.C. We look forward to hearing from him when he returns and wish him luck and safe travels," said Terri Cox-Cruey, superintendent for Kenton County Schools.
Once there, he will be proposing his bill on EPA regulations to the Boys Nation “senate” and debate it. They will pass the bill and the Boys Nation-elected president will sign the bill into law. He’s optimistic that the one signing the bills into law, will be him.
“I want to lead. I want to be in the best position to make a difference,” Thornberry said. “Boys Nation are the best leaders in the U.S.”
While in D.C., Thornberry and the other Boys Nation representatives, two from each state, will have the opportunity to meet their state representatives, like Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie; as well as President Barack Obama if he is available.
He’s hopeful that he might grow his selfie collection.
“I sure do hope I can get a selfie with the president,” Thornberry laughed.
Northern Kentucky Voice: Your Voice, Your Story is a periodic and ongoing series on WCPO.com about the people of Northern Kentucky making a difference in their community. If you would like to tell your story, or know someone who should, email Jessica Noll at Jessica.Noll@wcpo.com .