Column

A Legacy of Learning

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Washington, May 5, 2017 | comments
A Legacy of Learning
by Congressman Marsha Blackburn (TN-7)

The excitement I felt each time I put on my green and white uniform, attached my four-leaf clover patch, and grabbed an armful of project books has not escaped me to this day. Many of you reading this may be able to relate to this feeling. Maybe you too filled out your record book, logging the work you put in completing project after project as a proud member of 4-H.

My grandmother was a member of “The Tomato Club,” a club formed in 1902 which is considered the birth of 4-H in the United States. My mother was a National Leadership winner and worked out of the Cooperative Extension office in Sebring, Florida while my father was stationed there during World War II. With the legacy that preceded me, there was never a question of whether or not I would be a member of 4-H, but rather what I would do when I became a 4-H member.

At fairs and in 4-H competitions, alongside my home-grown tomatoes and beans or the apron or skirt I made by hand, were those project books, dutifully filled out detailing my work on each project. Through projects like these I learned valuable, lifelong lessons of accomplishment, self-reliance, and the value of hard work. I learned how to speak in public, how to give back to my community, and how to be a good neighbor and friend.

4-H also meant opportunity. My senior year in high school I entered my food preservation record in the state competition and won. From there, my work went on to compete at the national level where the winner would receive a 4-H scholarship. That scholarship provided my first payment towards my college education.

My involvement in 4-H and the lessons I took from it continue to play a large part in my life. It was 4-H, in fact, that led to my first trip to Washington, D.C.; and I can say the organization taught me lessons and gave me the opportunities that allowed me to return to Washington to represent you in Congress. Today, 4-H is the largest youth development organization in the nation, teaching the same valuable lessons and offering even more opportunities.

Today, over 6 million 4-H’ers in every corner of the country are taking advantage of the same opportunities I did. A dedicated team of over 500,000 volunteers and around 3,500 4-H professionals work to build our sons and daughters into tomorrow’s leaders, teaching health, science, agriculture, and citizenship through hands-on projects and mentorship. In Tennessee alone, we have over 176,000 4-H’ers and roughly 8,000 volunteer leaders.

We must do all we can to make sure 4-H can continue reaching more young people in even more areas across the country. At an event in Washington, D.C. recently, I was named a founding member of the 4-H Luminaries alumni group. I am honored to be a part of this group to help raise awareness of the life-changing impact 4-H can have and to generate support for bringing 4 H to more youth. I do not take this charge lightly and look forward to doing what I can to continue 4-H’s rich legacy of growing tomorrow’s leaders in community, industry, and life.

Congressman Blackburn represents Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives

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