Andover teen takes road of kindness to the White House

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 14, 2013 - 9:34 AM

Simeon Toronto says that other teenagers he met in Washington, D.C., were smarter and more eloquent. But he was the one elected president of the prestigious Boys Nation.

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Andover High senior Simeon Toronto was sworn in July 24 as president of Boys Nation. For him, it was the “thrill of a lifetime to get a tour of the White House.” He also met President Obama on his trip to Washington, D.C., to take part in the prestigious mock government program.

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First, 17-year-old Simeon Toronto met the president. Then he was elected president.

The Andover High School senior-to-be represented Minnesota at the recent American Legion-sponsored Boys Nation in Washington, D.C. But his road to the White House, an audience with President Obama and his election as president of the 67th Boys Nation began years ago — long before he was voted Andover senior class president, became an Eagle Scout or was named co-captain of the high-school track and cross-country teams and president of his choral group.

“Sim is the second-oldest of seven children,” said his mother, Allison Toronto. “He learned the value of humility in a hurry.”

Toronto is ranked 10th in his class and is a member of the National Honors Society. But if you ask him, he tells you that there are smarter kids at Andover High.

He has run the half-mile competitively in 2 minutes, 9 seconds, but he prefers to talk about the teammate who has shattered the 2-minute mark.

He’s 6-feet-2-inches tall and loves playing basketball but would rather talk about his younger brother who is 6-3 and can outrebound him.

He is built like a thermometer, weighing only 145 pounds. Yet, when he speaks, the weight of his words makes a sound impression.

“I am self-confident,” he said. “It has nothing to do with thinking I’m the best — because that’s not me. But I’m confident in knowing that I try my best.

“And what I try to do is treat everyone with kindness. It’s almost a lost art. It shouldn’t be.”

Simeon, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, hopes to attend Brigham Young University a year from now. He has the uncanny ability to remember the names and faces of everyone he meets. There were 98 representatives from 49 states at Boys Nation, and Simeon says he remembered them all.

Getting to know the other Boys Nation senators who would elect him was crucial. But it is Simeon’s positive message that ultimately has sold him to classmates, teammates, his choral group and his Boys State and Boys Nation peers.

Boys State is a program that simulates the democratic process. Boys State and Boys Nation got a boost two decades ago when a photo circulated of a teenage Bill Clinton meeting President John Kennedy at a Boys Nation gathering at the White House.

Simeon was sponsored by the Edward B. Cutter Post 102 in Anoka. Before heading to Washington last month, he stopped by the Legion hall and shook everyone’s hand. He wasn’t looking for votes.

“I wanted to thank them for this opportunity,” he said.

He was convinced that he had nothing to lose by running for Boys Nation president — just as he had nothing to lose when he ran for Boys Nation senator.

“Sometimes you have to shoot for the moon,” he said.

So he arrived in Washington with a goal and a message.

“I wanted to be genuine,” he said. “You can’t go wrong killing them with kindness.

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