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Can You Tell Me What is the Point of 4-H and FFA?
What We All Missed While We Were Trying to Win
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 • Posted June 29, 2011

As I travel along in my life journey one of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of it is being able to have a significant influence on the youth livestock programs. However, my goal is not to only have an influence, but to promote positive changes within the system. This is not always an easy, nor is it typically a popular task, as it is too easy for any type of organization to begin to sway in the wrong direction. This so called “sway” can be small, large, gradual, or sudden. Regardless of the measure of this change, what is more important is realizing when there is a need for a correction and a map to lead in the right direction. While guest lecturing at Palo Alto College this spring, I discussed a historical issue with the students that pertained to their class. The topic that was being discussed is not important for this article; however I offered a question to them asking, “that regardless of whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, how do you know what you stand for”? Well, I was pleased as well as impressed that I received many viable responses. However, the answer that I was really looking for was for someone to say, “by knowing what the opposition stands for”. If you call yourself a Democrat, how do you know you’re are not a Republican? By studying Republican beliefs and deciding whether they fit into the beliefs for which you stand. For instance, if we don’t know what the speed limit is….how do we know we are not breaking it? In order to avoid mistakes, we must educate ourselves to have knowledge on what mistakes have a possibility of occurring. Unfortunately, an innately humanistic characteristic is allowing ourselves to “sway” in a direction in which we were not familiar or have little previous experience. Winning has this effect on individuals. Now, please do not get me wrong, as I have said in my past articles, I love winning as much as anyone else. However, my question to you is where do you put this on your list of priorities in terms of your children’s success in their extracurricular activities, livestock shows, etc? Depending on when I ask you this question, your answer might surprise you. The majority of you who are reading this article have probably been in 4-H/FFA for at least a couple years or so. However, if this is your first year or you are considering having your children involved in youth livestock shows, please let this be a guide for your future and not a dissuading mechanism. So let’s get back to our question, on what hierarchal level do you put winning? Before you answer this, I’d like you to respond to this question as if it was put to you when your child was 7, and just getting ready to enter into 4-H in the next year. What are your reasons for pursuing this, have you always dreamed of having a child who had the best steer, pig, lamb, or goat in Texas? Perhaps. However, I would guess the majority of you have wished for your children to simply be happy and healthy, letting winning remain behind these two priorities. Then again, we all have had the misfortune of losing sight of what is truly important. Although, what should be considered early on, is do we catch ourselves and make amends. So now, let’s fast forward, your child has graduated from college, getting ready to get married or maybe even having his or her first baby. Now I pose the question to you again, but in a little different way with a few additions..….. Would you have the same reasons for having your child show a steer, pig, lamb, or goat at the end of their 4-H/FFA career as you did before they began? By your child winning at a majors, did it make them that much of an improved and better person in adulthood? Finally, looking back do you wish that perhaps you could go back and say to your family upon arriving at one of the many shows attended, “today winning isn’t going to be our number one priority.” To conclude, allow me to say this, I am almost 30 years old now. I started showing when I was about 10. I have had my share of losses in the shows, and thankfully so. The time spent with my parents is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. However, I have had a great deal of success, including winning my county’s junior livestock showmanship classes four times, including reserve champion one year, numerous jackpot show banners, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Market Goat Show Sr. Showmanship class three times, two consecutive years in a row. Now you may be thinking, “I bet that is something that most people showing only wish to achieve” or “a treasure for all your life”. Well allow me to be honest, sure it was great.Although, looking back at life now that I am engaged, having my family with me, and turning 30 soon, you know what the perks are of all my success and winnings during my glorious 4-H and FFA career? ……. Few remember or care now. Nor should they. Which is the reason I always feel a little empathy when I see individuals sacrificing their family’s happiness, their ethics, and more, just to in order to win. Individuals thinking that winning lasts for an eternity.

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