If you recall, we put out a plea for help to save 4-H – about a year ago. The response from people offering to help save 4-H programs across this great country of ours has been overwhelming.

The objective has not only been to raise enough money to keep our 4-H programs alive and well, but to philosophically and politically up-grade 4-H to a higher level of importance. From the County to the National scene there has to be a newfound recognition of the importance of 4-H. Both Congress and County Supervisors have to recognize that 4-H is about building character and leadership. The purpose of the projects is to teach skills, but understanding the value of relationships and how to maintain them is far more important than that of finishing a steer or baking a cake.

Would this country be in the financial mess that it’s in if our current leaders were as astute as our “founding fathers”? The government way back in the 1800’s saw fit to create 4-H; realizing that this country would be built on the “backs” of its youth. The only thing that has changed in all those years is our deviation from our “roots”. Greed and self-serving bureaucracy that can’t see beyond ‘me first‘ have watered down those solid “Christian values”.

While filling their own pockets and laughing all the way to the bank, government threw us enough crumbs to make us believe that our multi-tiered homes with a car in every stall was the result of their actions. Now we are paying the price for their unscrupulous ways, and suffering the consequences. Should 4-H have to suffer at the expense of these lying, cheating thieves that couldn’t run their own businesses?

Giving bailouts to failed companies that, in turn, reward incompetency with multi-million dollar bonuses, is like giving trophies and purple ribbons to he/she who stands at the bottom of the class. How can we justify such financial waste – while, at the same time, saying there isn’t enough money to support 4-H?

Rewarding failure, while penalizing success makes little or no sense to me! What kind of a role model have we become for our kids? The younger generation is going to have to pay for our mistakes, but let’s not compound the situation by removing the one model in our life that has stood the test of time and produced a platform of stability and leadership. 4-H is the one constant form which many of us draw strength and measure competitive standards in life.

The “standard bearer” of 4-H is that of teaching kids to be good stewards of their life and the lives of those they affect. Life isn’t just about doing it yourself; it is equally that of doing for others. The more you give the more you get back in return! 4-H instills these values in a way that leaves a lifetime impression. Do we really want to see our kids cheated out of this, one of life’s finest opportunities, to develop character and responsibility?

When you cheat, you cheat those closest and most dependent upon you. Is there anyone closer to you than your kids? Can the cheaters in Washington really do this with good conscious? Are their priorities so eroded that they no longer recognize those principals that made this country great?

4-H is more than a match for this crazy world. 4-H not only has what it takes to excel at most anything, but to adapt when changes come along. 4-H has an adventurous spirit and sense of assurance that comes from having overcome challenges before. However, are we up to this challenge, or do we stand back with our hands in our pocket?

4-H has taught the skills to self-sustain and overcome the obstacles that life throw our way. It has shown us strength in the weakest of times and a determination that is unmatched.    

Isn’t this what dreams are made of? Isn’t this why we should step up to the plate and fight for what’s right?

I’ve noted, with interest, that there are some counties that have taken the initiative of increasing sales tax. One county in particular is considering adding an extra half-cent to the sales tax to make up for lost state aid and add another revenue stream. This would more than adequately cover the cost of servicing 4-H.

When considering cuts in local government aid of more that $100 million per average county, the threat of discontinuing 4-H is understandable. My point of contention is, should it be 4-H that goes – or is there a need for a review board to oversee such action?

I am not for raising taxes, but it is one option to put on the table for consideration. Perhaps there are several programs that should be eliminated long before 4-H. It only takes 300 signatures to initiate a countrywide referendum, so maybe that’s the place to start in our county. You still have a voice and more power than a hand-full of county commissioners!

Our current economic disaster represents such a contradiction of values. Food and shelter are in such desperate peril; putting businesses, families, and relationships at risk. Contrast this with kids playing sports for multi million dollar salaries. Is this the message we want to send our kids?

Kids being paid obscene amounts of money to play a game that they would otherwise play for nothing is disrespectful to those who just want to play a role in life of responsibility, accomplishment and accountability. We need a reality check–not a check of disproportionate value!

We have money enough to support athletic franchise pay rolls in excess of a $100 million, and, yet, we can’t see the rationale and wisdom of supporting our 4-H programs. Until these issues get resolved this country is doomed to fail. Just as sports should stand alone, without public subsidy, 4-H should lead the way in corroborating a co-existence with society. The merits of the building blocks of 4-H should be more sustainable then that game of chance. Consider the building blocks of 4-H:

HEAD – HEART – HANDS – HEALTH

I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living – for my club, my community, and my world.

Talent, persistence, and ability enter the equation of success for any kid; be it that of sports or a lifetime achievement of 4-H. Both 4-H and sports have carved a niche in the lives of our kids. Both play an important role in the development of their future. But to disproportionately support one at the expense of the other seems a little disingenuous.

Over-achievers will always be compensated; monetarily or honorably, but may the playing field be made equal. It is an honor to win a championship; an honor that can’t be taken away from with any amount of money, so put the weight of your support in the arena of greatest value!


(more insightful stories written by Ken Knight)
 

Ken E. Knight is the author of the “Knightro Report”, a nationally syndicated livestock-marketing column, which is featured in this publication on a regular basis. Mr. Knight is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a major BS Degree in Meat and Animal Science and a minor in Communications. In addition to being a professional auctioneer, public speaker and livestock judge, he brings many years of corporate level meat and livestock market management and expertise to the industry for which he now serves as an independent voice of shared knowledge and experience.

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For more in-depth information regarding the topics that have been touched upon in this report, Knightro conducts livestock marketing seminars on a regular basis. To schedule a seminar, auction, judging, or speaking engagement, please contact Ken Knight, Knightro, W11911 County Road FF,  River  Falls,  WI 54022,  phone  toll free 1-877-KNIGTRO, phone 715-262-8480,  fax 715-262-8480, e-mail [email protected]t; or contact the Midwest Farm & Livestock Directory at [email protected].