As some of my more veteran readers may know (as well as any one that knows me in real life), I went to a program in high school called American Legion Boys Nation. For those who aren’t familiar with the program (which is to say, a lot of people sadly), a little background information is needed. Every state (but Hawaii) has a program called Boys State. At Boys State, you learn about state and local government through direct participation. You run for actual political offices and once you’re elected (if you win your election), you carry out very detailed and realistic role-playing exercises about your office. Two kids from every Boys State across the country are chosen to represent their home state as senators at Boys Nation. There you learn about the federal government and have a chance to connect with government officials at the national level including U.S. senators, Congressmen, as well as the President of the United States. Being chosen for Boys Nation is one of the biggest honors that a high school student can receive. President Clinton is one of the most famous alumni of the program and there’s a well-known picture of him at the program shaking hands with President Kennedy in the Rose Garden. The summer that I attended the program (2006), there was a man there named Jonathan Goodman Levitt that was starting a documentary film about youth involvement in politics (that’s all I really knew at the time). Six years later, he contacted me while I was in New York City and gave me an opportunity to screen his film, Follow the Leader, a real life political coming of age story. It was honestly one of the most important documentaries I’ve watched in ages, and if it’s allowed to find the audience it deserves, it will do more to change the way that we look at how our nation’s future leaders form their political beliefs and what drives those who pursue politics than any book or movie eve has. As someone who went down a very similar path to the film’s three subjects (and the fact that I personally know one of the people in the film), I can attest to the movie’s veracity.

Jonathan has asked me to help write some posts for the actual website for the documentary so I’m going to save my most personal and in-depth responses to the film for that site (though I’ll likely provide links to that writing on here) but I want to urge any of my readers who care about youth involvement in politics and the way that we look at the political discourse in this country (as well as the broader political discourse itself) to donate to this film. This is the first Kickstarter campaign I’ve ever been involved in, and I would never solicit my readers without good reason (I want you to keep reading my site for my film/TV/books reviews. I don’t want you to think I’m just a fund-raiser), but I truly believe in this film. I don’t have a real paying job or actual income this summer, and I made a small $25 contribution to the film. Follow the Leader takes place over the course of three years and follows the political growth of three young teenagers in the summer after their junior year of high school. These are three young conservatives who dream about one day being the president of the United States. However, over the course of the next three years, these men go on wildly different political journeys. One arrives at Georgetown and transitions from a Reagan conservative to a modern independent who loses his faith in either party. Another changes parties entirely and becomes a Democrat before going on an even wilder journey while the last sticks to his conservative guns even in the face of the upcoming 2008 election. Following these young men through their final year of high school and then their first two years of college, you get an intimate look at the social and psychological factors that helped turn these ambitious and talented young men onto politics and what either jades them from the whole political process or pushes them to continue with their dreams.

The guy pictured above is Nick Troiano. He’s one of the three subjects of the film. I’ve never known a more involved or committed person my entire life. Nick and I don’t always agree about politics but that’s a kid who’s incredibly passionate about public service and making a difference and through Follow the Leader, you get an in-depth picture of how that happens. I’m sort of a spend-thrift (which I guess is ironic given my liberal political inclinations) but I thought this film was worth helping to see made despite my lack of money. If you have even the slightest interest in politics and helping to change the way that we look at young people being involved in politics (kids who will run this country in the future), I think you’ll feel the same way. I’m going to post a traditional review of the film on Follow the Leader‘s website but as a quick point of reference for my readers, for this site, I would give it an “A” on my scale that goes up to “A+”. It’s that great and impactful of a documentary. No one’s done anything quite like this before. So, if you’ve ever wanted to be part of helping an independent film be released (and wouldn’t mind receiving some of the cool perks that you can read about on the Kickstarter page), I would definitely recommend that you donate to this film. I personally know the film-maker and he’s a stand-up guy with a powerful and unique vision, and the film is done. It’s fantastic. It just needs help getting released. You can donate to the kickstarter here. It’s in a very urgent place right now at the beginning of the campaign. People who discover it on their own are less likely to donate until it’s closer to its finance goal so any little donation you could give would be greatly appreciated. Once again, I don’t even have a personal stake in this. It’s not my film. However, I simply think it’s important enough that I make this plea to my readers. I know you won’t regret it.