There is a wonderful organization in our country that I can support. If you don't already support them, I want to encourage you to support them, too. This organization does not have a lot of fanfare, they don't put on a beauty pageant, don't have any television specials and, as far as I know, they don't have any big-name celebrities who promote them. Rather, they just very quietly go their way, trying to build character and good citizenship in the youth of our nation.
Now, before I tell you the name of this organization, could you guess it? Assuming you made a guess, you probably said the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, or maybe even some other worthwhile organization I am not familiar with. Well, enough suspense. I am referring to an organization called the 4-H Clubs.
If you are not familiar with 4-H, please allow me to tell you a little about them. My first experience came more than 65 years ago when I was in high school. It was an after-school activity and not part of the official school curriculum or school program. You were given an opportunity to participate, but it was strictly voluntary.
In a sense, the young people who volunteered to participate became the 4-H Club. I don't know why, but back then the leaders came from the County Extension Office. I lost track of 4-H Clubs for more than 50 years after I left school. Then, because of my work in the field of motivation, I once again came in contact with them, this time through their state office. I assume every state has a similar project.
Several months ago, I got a call from a lady in the 4-H state office, asking me to speak to about 115 youths at their state teen leadership conference. The topic she requested was "The Importance of Learning and Understanding Economic Concepts and Principles." I had a great time with the young people in attendance that day, and I came away inspired. Today, I have a good feeling about the 4-H organization. If we provide some good seed like those young people I met, our nation is going to be OK in the future.
The reason I wanted you to know about this fine organization is to help you know what to tell a son or daughter or grandchild who comes to you and says, "I am thinking about joining the 4-H Club." To be sure, they will have fun and learn something worthwhile, too.
When I decided to do this column, I did a little research, and I found that my gut feeling was truly on track. The symbol for 4-H is a four-leaf clover. Each leaf stands for an important word in their pledge. Here is the 4-H Pledge: "My Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service, my Health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world."
I also learned that A.B. Graham started a youth program in Clark County, Ohio, in 1902, which is considered the birth of 4-H in the United States. The first club was called "The Tomato Club" or the "Corn Growing Club." T.A. Erickson of Douglas County, Minnesota, started local agricultural after-school clubs and fairs that same year. Jessie Field Schambaugh developed the clover pin with an H on each leaf in 1910, and by 1912 they were called 4-H Clubs. The passage of the Smith-Lever Act by Congress in 1914 created the Cooperative Extension System at USDA and nationalized 4-H. In 1924 the clover emblem was adopted. And, as Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know the rest of the story," and what a wonderful story it is. 4-H has positively helped millions of our precious young people.