“The [National] 4-H Center is like ‘home’. Its influence is infinite in scope. It lives within the hearts and minds of all who come – who helped to build it.” -Dorothy Emerson
This past month I was able to spend time at my national 4-H home, surrounded by the rich history of Washington D.C and the innovative and inspiring stories of some of the most influential people in America’s largest youth development organization; 4-H.
As the 2018 National 4-H Mistress of Ceremonies I had the privileged to facilitate the induction of 15 Laureates into the National 4-H Hall of Fame. The experience was nothing short of wonder-filled.
The National 4-H Hall of Fame was created in 2002 during 4-H’s centennial year by the three 4-H partners, National 4-H Council, National 4-H Headquarters, and the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA). Each land grant university from across the nation nominates one candidate per year while the founding partners of the hall of fame nominates up to three candidates.
This year’s laureates were Dr. Henry M. Brooks, Clarence ‘Bud’ Bryan, Fran R. Castille, George and Ruth Duncan, Lynn Garland, Marifloyd Hamil, Rev. Dr. Romando James, Richard Mahacek, Mark Manno, Keith Martikainen, Elizabeth ‘Betty’ McCoy, Dr. Arlinda Nauman, Sharon Runion Rowland, Linda Jo Turner, and Vernon Waldren
Each laureate had the opportunity to share their 4-H story with the 300 event attendees, while each story was unique and enjoyable there are two that have especially stuck with me that I feel need to be shared with the readers of this column.
The first, one laureate recognized the hard work of the other laureates, stated that “We have stood up for the youth of American regardless of race during the 1960’s, military family status during the 1970’s-present day, nationality especially American Indians, and Muslims, and now in 2018 we continue to fight. I challenge you laureates and you all in the audience to continue the work we have started. In today’s world we must continue to stand up for the youth especially those who identity in the LGBTQ+ community and any other identities they may decide upon. Regardless of your political or religious affiliation and opinion, we must stand up for all youth because ALL youth belong in 4-H.”
The second, the last laureate was attending an NAE4-HA board meeting in Washington D.C on one of the most infamous days in American history, September 11, 2001. He shared the details of that day, the disbelieve, the horror, and sorrow of the attendees. However, He said “We did not stop our work, because we knew that no matter what happened, 4-H needed to be there for the youth of American at this time and at all times, and it was our jobs to ensure that was a reality.”
These incredible leaders reminded me why I am so passionate about 4-H. Whenever I feel lost 4-H has pulled out a compass, brought me into an embrace and guided me…4-H is life changing. These Laureates paved the way for thousands of 4-Hers, during the desegregation of the United States, and the turn of the 21st century ensuring that every child was and is welcomed in the 4-H program. Their passion and drive will serve as a constant impression in the 4-H program and I am honored to have met them, hear their incredible stories and learn of their influential work.