July 2008
4-H Extension Corner

4-H Extension Corner

By James Shropshire

Welcome back to the Corner. I hope your summer is going well. Spend some time with your family during the holiday and remember our men and women who are serving this great county of ours. Also, honor those who have given their lives to protect the freedoms we have in America. Even with high gas prices and rising cost of living, we are blessed with a great way of life!

4-H has been very busy and next month I will send a few pictures to show where we have been. I want to put a plug in for Jim and Grace on their "Time Well Spent" TV program. If you have not yet watched a show, you need to find your local station and time and plan to watch. They have done a wonderful job of showing youth involved with farming and agriculture.

I want to continue this month talking about youth, leadership and how important it is!

With the 2008 political season fully underway, I have been thinking about the most important skill we seek to develop in 4-H youth: leadership. Any adult who wants to be a great leader could be well-served by listening to 4-H young people, a group which scorns hypocrisy and is wary of leaders who place personal or political gain ahead of duty. And just as young people value their own achievements, they judge leaders based on what they achieve for the public they serve.

As we look to build youth leadership, it is important for us to consider the characteristics of a true leader.

The exceptional leader is visionary, thinking ahead to avoid problems before they arise. What are the social, economic and diplomatic challenges our country will face a decade from now? What future issues will be determining Alabama’s greatness in a globalized world? Those are the issues that intrigue today’s young people.

The generation now in 4-H knows the importance of flexibility and adaptability. Like a great sports coach or a great general, a great leader can adjust to new challenges and opportunities. Nostalgia is great for high school homecoming, but it won’t take you far when dealing with issues like energy and technology.

People often recognize the communications skills we seek to build through 4-H. We know a great leader like Abraham Lincoln was a powerful speaker. His Gettysburg Address is the model of simple, persuasive clarity. We may not remember what a great listener he was. The stories of his cabinet meetings are legendary for how much he listened, respectfully and confidently weighing diverse perspectives.

It must also be noted Lincoln was referred to as "Honest Abe." Honesty and integrity are certainly characteristics we seek to develop through 4-H. Those are as crucial to a young person participating in a 4-H livestock project as they are to a president developing national policy. Unfortunately, young people notice too many adults who are not willing to play by the rules.

Although building the respect and confidence of young leaders can sometimes seem to be a challenging task, their enthusiasm cannot be restrained. When 4-H members are motivated and excited about their projects or activities, others are more inclined to follow. Whether it is a 4-H club president, a state senator or a corporate CEO, the amount of their enthusiasm is directly connected to their success.

Great leaders are resourceful, well-organized and welcome change. They delegate authority to others instead of controlling the details themselves. Just as we seek to provide mastery through 4-H, the true leader understands knowledge is power and he or she constantly seeks to obtain all the information needed to make informed decisions.

Bill Gates’ High School Address

Bill Gates once gave a speech at a high school about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically-correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

Rule 1: Life is not fair . . . get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping . . . they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault. So, don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7:
Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters, you don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11:
Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Until next time, God Bless!

James Shropshire is the Alabama 4-H Regional Extension Agent for the Central Alabama Region. E-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..