Transcript of Remarks By Secretary Of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman And 4-H Visitors With Radio Farm Broadcasters March 1, 2002 Washington, D.C. | USDA Newsroom
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REMARKS BY SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE ANN M. VENEMAN AND 4-H VISITORS WITH RADIO FARM BROADCASTERS
MARCH 1, 2002
WASHINGTON, D.C.

MR. QUINN: One hundred years ago, what we know today as 4-H began. Today we're saluting a century of service by 4-H and in this national broadcast.

I'm Larry Quinn, speaking to you from the Broadcast Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, and in the studio with me today are Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, veteran farm broadcaster Orion Samuelson from Chicago, and 4-H members from Florida, Kansas and Minnesota, who we'll introduce to you in just a little bit.

Madam Secretary, you probably didn't think about it when you were a 4-H member, but now you're actually the national leader of 4-H as Secretary of Agriculture. That must have been a dream fulfilled, and last night you had an exciting celebration of 4-H. Tell us a little bit about that.

SECRETARY VENEMAN: "Well, it was very exciting. The 4-H is putting on a big two-day meeting here in Washington, and last night they had a congressional dinner with many members of Congress including Senator Roberts and Congresswoman Clayton and Congressman Peterson, and we had a good chance to really celebrate the values that 4-H is all about, and hear about some of the outstanding projects that some of the young people are involved with. It was extremely inspiring and I just think that it's tremendous that we have an opportunity to bring some of the young people into our studio today, along with Orion Samuelson, the veteran farm broadcaster of all time, and to have a chance then to talk with farm broadcasters around the country who we really appreciate joining us today in this celebration.

"So thank you, Larry, for being a part of this. You're a veteran 4-H'er too.

MR. QUINN: 4-H public speaking got me started in all of this.

You know, you actually helped kick off this centennial celebration with a very important person about a month ago.

SECRETARY VENEMAN: "We did. We had several 4-H'ers at the White House, and President Bush was given the Partner in 4-H Award by the 4-H. And we kicked off the centennial celebration, and the President unexpectedly--we were in what's called the Roosevelt Room in the White House, and he unexpectedly asked the 4-H'ers to join him and come and see the Oval Office and his new rug, and it was quite a thrill for everyone that was there.

"And then the Vice President walked in as well, so they got a chance to be with both the Vice President and the President at once, and so it was a great kickoff for the centennial 4-H celebration.

MR. QUINN: It seems very appropriate too. You have a new initiative that's called Leaders of Tomorrow, and I think we have three of those Leaders of Tomorrow with us today.

SECRETARY VENEMAN: "We do have a new initiative, Leaders of Tomorrow, which we are partnering really with 4-H and FFA, and everywhere we go we're having 4-H and FFA members with us around the country. It's been great fun, a great experience I think for both me and for the young people that have participated.

"We are going around and talking to various schools, universities and colleges, people who are interested in agriculture and the food system as a career, and talking about the tremendous promise and opportunity that awaits them as they enter the work force, and they will be and are the leaders of tomorrow.

MR. QUINN: Well, Orion, I know you have been in Washington for a purpose. You come to Washington frequently in your broadcasting work, but you've been working with the 4-H celebration here. Tell us about what happened from your standpoint last night?

MR. SAMUELSON "Actually, tonight's the night that I get to do some work as the master of ceremonies for the centennial celebration.

But just to comment about last night, the thing that I enjoyed so much about the congressional dinner is everybody there was a 4-H'er. Everyone who went up to that microphone, whether it was Secretary Veneman, whether it was Senator Roberts or Congressman Peterson from Minnesota, everybody had been in 4-H, everybody had a story to tell. And one of the co-sponsors, Kraft, their executive not only talked about 4-H, he brought along a ribbon from his sheep showing days that was purple when he received it. It had faded, but it was just an extraordinary event.

Over the years I've been involved in 4-H. I started out as a member on the Wisconsin dairy farm, and like you, it got me into public speaking and ultimately got me into the job of broadcasting. And the best job description I've ever received came from my father, who was a hard-working quiet dairy farmer, after watching me in the studio in Chicago my first time down there. His comment, serious comment was: "Must be nice to be able to look at all that hard work and then just talk about it."

[Laughter.]

And that was his assessment of my job, and I've never forgotten it. But 4-H to me is such a leadership building organization that we need today in young people, because it gives them goals, it gives them the opportunity to achieve those goals, and that's why to me I am delighted to see 4-H move from the farm into the city. I can remember getting some mail from farm folks saying, 'Well, now, you know, why take 4-H into the city? They've got Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Campfire Girls and all of that?' But when you have a leadership program this strong, you need to share it with everybody, and so, salute to 4-H on 100 years.

MR. QUINN: Thank you, Orion. And now we're going to talk to our 4-H guests that are in the studio today, and we're going to be talking with Brita Thomas first, who is with the Minnesota 4-H Club, and she's 13-years-old from Moorhead, Minnesota. And Brita had an interesting idea that relates to something called "Happy Feet." Tell us about what that's all about.

MS. THOMAS: "Happy Feet is a kid-to-kid charity, where we give shoes to those that can't afford it, and, you know, it's growing so big, and we've gotten so many shoes to those happy little faces, and it makes me feel good.

MR. QUINN: You have your own website. I signed on and looked at your website, and it's an exciting place.

MS. THOMAS: Yeah.

MR. QUINN: So this kind of began with an idea that you had and then shared it with your 4-H Club?

MS. THOMAS: Yeah, and then we just kind of got the ball rolling.

MR. QUINN: Great.

MR. SAMUELSON: Tell us how many dollars you raised.

MS. THOMAS: We raised over probably about $3,000 for shoes.

MR. QUINN: How many shoes does that buy today?

MS. THOMAS: Probably 2,000, 3,000 pairs of shoes.

MR. QUINN: Wow, that's wonderful.

SECRETARY VENEMAN: "Last night at the event they had a wonderful video showing what these young people had done with the Happy Feet, and Brita was featured as having the initial idea about this program that became a tremendous 4-H project for their club, and boy, it just is such an example of what 4-H is and can be all about, and the young people that are part of 4-H.

"So I congratulate you on what you've done.

MS. THOMAS: Thank you.

MR. QUINN: And we're going to move to a fellow by the name of Marcus Cook, who is 16-years-old from Pensacola, Florida. And even has the name for his interest in food, with a name like Cook, interested in food production and food preparation, but you're also interested in food nutrition and consumer education. Tell us about some of the work that you've done in your own 4-H project.

MR. COOK: Well, I do presentations for county events, and I make posters and make my cards, and then I give demonstrations. And if I make it past events, I go to District and State, which is in Gainesville.

So food and preparation, and doing all these demonstrations, it helps me learn how to publicly speak better, and it allows me to travel places that I never traveled before.

MR. QUINN: That's great.

MR. COOK: And get a chance to get out of Pensacola.

MR. QUINN: So what's your favorite preparation of food? Do you have a favorite recipe that you do?

MR. COOK: Well, there's one recipe that was a big hit with everybody, all right. It was called Tasty Turkey Chili.

MR. QUINN: Getting close to lunchtime here. I think we're ready to have a taste of that. So are you planning a career because of involvement in this kind of work with food?

MR. COOK: I'm still thinking about it. I'm really trying to focus on something that will give me like--that will allow me to use my public speaking skills.

MR. QUINN: Well, good luck with that. Orion and I need to be replaced some day.

[Laughter.]

MR. QUINN: Let's move to Kansas, and Lucas Shivers is a 19-year-old 4-H member from Clay Center, Kansas, but he's now also a sophomore at Kansas State University, and he's studying agriculture communication. I think he's shoving us a little bit. Lucas, tell us a little bit about some of the work that you did with crops and horticulture projects.

MR. SHIVERS: Yeah. I grew up on a farm in rural Kansas. It was in the north, north-central region, in the foothills, it was in Clay County, and I was a 4-H-er for ten years there. I started out when I was ten years old, and then I have been involved a lot with the horticulture aspect of 4-H. I raise market lambs, and we've been lambing recently, so it's been great to go home and see all the lambs that we've been having.

The 4-H has always given me those life skills through the projects. I think it's the skills that you gain to be the leader that you are now, that has helped. It's the avenue or the channel for that; but it's the life skills that I value the most.

MR. QUINN: And meeting the people from all over the country this week is another good example of that.

MR. SHIVERS: Exactly. It's been great. We've been in the conversations yesterday, and this morning as well, and just meeting people from across 50 states, and even some territories that we have represented here, and gaining their ideas of the youth development in the 21st Century. It's been incredible.

MR. QUINN: Well, we did this to give the broadcasters out there on line an idea of what questions they could ask these three guests, and our two guests, the Secretary and Orion. So we're going to open up the broadcasters for questions now from out there, and our first question is going to come from Cyndi Young of Brownville Network in Jefferson City, Missouri, and Melanie Musselman is standing by.

Cyndi go ahead with your question, please.

MS. YOUNG: Thank you very much, Larry, and a ten-year 4-H-er from Illinois here.

Secretary Veneman, I would like to know what your 4-H projects were.

SECRETARY VENEMAN: "Well, I've been asked that a few times, and I took in 4-H--I was a member of the Empire 4-H Club in the Central Valley of California. That's in Stanislaus County near Modesto, which is a town some people may have heard about. I took cooking, and sewing, and horses in 4-H, but as Marcus said, one of the most memorable things about 4-H is that it does give you probably the first opportunity you have, as a young person, to get up in front of other people and speak, and I can remember how nervous I used to be to give a 4-H demonstration project.

"So I think 4-H was the beginning in terms of being comfortable, getting up and speaking in front of audiences, and I see our young people here in the studio nodding their heads in agreement to that as well.

MR. QUINN: Melanie Musselman is up next. She is with KFRM in Clay Center, Kansas. I believe she's also a 4-H-er in the past, and Don Wick will be standing by. Melanie, go ahead.

MS. MUSSELMAN: Thank you very much, Larry, and I, too, again, am a former 4-H member, and proud to say a relative of Lucas's. So hello, how are you doing?

MR. SHIVERS : It's good to hear from you.

MS. MUSSELMAN: I have a question for Secretary Veneman also. Secretary Veneman, as the leader of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you, again, as Larry pointed out, oversee the 4-H program and the 4-H program really has changed a lot since I've been in it and I know since a lot of others have been in it, but it still has the same core features and core values.

Where do you see the 4-H program going in the future? What would you like to see in it?

SECRETARY VENEMAN: "I think you make an extremely good point about the core values of 4-H. 4-H really started as something that was primarily available to people like myself who grew up in rural environments. Today, 4-H has reached into the city and is providing young people all over the country tremendous opportunities to learn basic values, to learn leadership skills, and I think that is the direction that 4-H should continue to go in, because it does have such tremendous opportunities that it gives the young people.

"Young people are the future of this country and we have so many opportunities for young people to learn and to be exposed to new issues, to new places, as Marcus has indicated, to get outside their home-towns because of activities like this.

"So I think that we need to learn from the 4-H-ers who are here this week, talk to them about the future of 4-H, really determine the kinds of issues and areas where we can help 4-H go in the future.

MR. QUINN: Don Wick is up next from WCCO in Minneapolis. Joe Wary is standing by. Go ahead, Don.

MR. WICK: Thanks much, and likewise, I'm a nine-year veteran of 4-H and also a 4-H parent. If I can direct my questions to Brita Thomas. Brita, let's focus in on your Happy Feet effort. Help me understand better how this all came together and what it was like when you were able to actually make that connection to help others through this project.

MS. THOMAS: Well, the study started --probably when I was in 4th grade, and I was sitting in gym class and I had noticed that the person that was next to me--because I had a cold--that, you know, she sat out very, very often. And, you know, I was kind of wondering, and I was kind of asking her, you know, well, how come, you know, you are doing that and stuff? And she's like oh, 'my parents can't afford shoes', and all of a sudden this huge rush of guilt, you know, that I can afford these shoes and be out there, and, you know, be active in gym class.

And I just felt bad for her, and so I talked to my mom. And we went out and got some shoes for her, and then my mom was talking to the principal and she said yeah, there's a lot more, hundreds more children and thousands that can, that just need shoes, they can't afford them.

Then we just kind of brought it up to our 4-H club as a community pride project, and then we decided it would be a good charity, and the ball got rolling.

MR. QUINN: Quickly, what was the reaction to the people that got those shoes? Can you fill us in on that.

MS. THOMAS: It was a very happy moment because now they can take part in gym class, and to see the smiles, and every once in a while you get a note from them, just like, oh, well, thank you; you know?

MR. QUINN: Thank you very much for that question, Don. That's an excellent question. Going next will be Joe Wary and standing by will be Jacob Shellabarger who is one of those leaders of tomorrow. He's a student at one of the universities studying communications.

So Joe, go ahead with your question.

MR.WARY : Okay, thank you very much. First of all, as the son of a county agent and 14 years of being a county agent myself, and 4-H alumnus and past 4-H agent also, I want to commend all of our guests there on taking advantage of the best youth group ever developed and hope you have enjoyed your learning experiences.

I also want to tell you as you enter into the work force, I invite you to reflect from time to time on your 4-H learning experiences, and continue to seek guidance from past and current 4-H leaders. Make sure that you take advantage of that.

And my question is as you look forward to your careers, what personal qualities do you think that you have gained most from your past 4-H experiences?

MR. QUINN: Lucas is going to start here.

MR. SHIVERS: That's a great question and it's one that has been presented pretty often and there's such a variety of life skills that I have gained from 4-H and have been able to apply in my college experiences and even beyond. I think the biggest of those is leadership and it is a wide range of definitions that people have for that one word, but basically the concept is that it is an experience-based example of influencing others, and that has ranged from being a club officer to being involved in the community service aspects as Brita has discussed.

Throughout my college career, I've been able to use that in my student publications that I've worked for, and even the freelancing that I've done with outside industry publications.

I've been able to intern with the Kansas 4-H Foundation last summer and being able to gain those skills, and a different perspective of 4-H from more of a donor side of things, being able to try to provide some funding for what goes into our state program has been incredible.

I think it also helps by relating to others and just having sort of the connection of trying to be able to just talk with other people easily, and having that basic foundation of what it takes to be social, and to have that, the interaction and networking skills that it takes to be successful in the professional world.

MR. QUINN: Marcus, tell us what you might be drawing from 4-H.

MR. COOK: 4-H. I've learned how to cook 'cause, you know, I never knew how to cook before. So it taught me how to cook and speak publicly because I'm a shy person, so I don't like to speak publicly that much. But it helps me, you know, get over that, and it allows me to also travel, so I can get out of my home-town of Pensacola sometimes, and it allows me to meet new people.

MR. QUINN: Very good. Brita, you want to add to that?

MS. THOMAS: One of the things that I've gotten out of it is leadership. I mean, I don't know where I'd be without being able to speak in front of people. You know, I used to be really shy and just kind of--I'd never talk to anybody but my mom, and now all of a sudden I'm talking to everybody. So I really like that, and probably, I'd probably be making macaroni and cheese every night if I didn't know how to cook. So that's one of the things I've gotten out of 4-H.

MR. QUINN: Can I go back to Marcus for a moment because I think Marcus does need to travel. Marcus, tell us how you packed to come to Washington, D.C. and it's a cold day here in Washington, D.C. today.

MR. COOK: Well, I packed with a whole bunch a T-shirts and a pair a shorts, not knowing that it was going to be cold up here, because when I left Pensacola it was pretty warm, about in the sixties, so that's shorts weather.

MR. QUINN: But it's not shorts weather here today.

We're going to go to Jacob Shellabarger. He's a journalism, broadcasting student at the University of Missouri, and he actually hosted a national collegiate meeting himself in St. Louis last week. Standing by is Jill Kruger . Jacob, go ahead with your question, please.

JACOB: Thank so much. My question is for Brita and Marcus and it's about how 4-H youth can be good examples for younger 4-H youth.

MR. COOK:: Well, I participate in programs like tutoring for the youngsters at my club, and it just gives me the-sends a rush of joy to help the younger kids with their learning and school, and everything, and they teach me a few things about what they do in elementary school or middle school, stuff like that, that I have never done before, because a lot of things have changed since I've been in middle school. It's a vice-versa learning experience.

MS. THOMAS: I like to help the younger kids, too. I think it's fun to like--you have so much knowledge to share and you just want to share it with everybody, and just kind of with the young kids, they're more interested in it, and they just --you know, they're so--they look up to you, and they're like, "Oh, yes," and you just want to give them all your knowledge at the same time.

MR. QUINN: Jill Kruger at the University of Nebraska, ag communications student and she's covered a lot of the youth events in her state, and she's our next questioner. Jill, go ahead with your question.

MS. KRUGER: Yes; thanks. I, too, am a ten-year 4-H survivor, and I greatly credit all those years of nervously giving 4-H speeches to helping me choose

broadcasting as a major and hopefully a profession, and my question is for Secretary Veneman.

The 4-H motto is "To make the best better," which I'm sure you know.

How does the 4-H motto apply to your term as Secretary of Agriculture?

SECRETARY VENEMAN: "Well, that's a good question, but I think it is a very, very appropriate motto because for those who serve in government, we want to constantly make things better. We are looking this year at implementing, at beginning to implement a new Farm Bill, once we receive one from Congress, and we want to do that in the very best way we can, and constantly strive for ways that we can better deliver our services to our constituent groups, particularly our farmers who depend so much on us.

"We want to better deliver the kinds of services that we have in terms of pest and disease prevention and control programs, food safety programs that protect our consumers.

"We are now very engaged in issues like homeland security, which are new issues, and we want to continually do things to make those programs better and make sure that we continue to have the safest food supply in the world and we can protect that.

"So from the whole array of programs that we have in USDA, we are working very closely with our excellent sub-Cabinet to do everything that we can to make every program that we have here at USDA better.

MR. QUINN: I'd like to have the 4-H youth talk about that, what the motto makes, means to them. How do you feel you're making the best better here? Who wants to start? Lucas is going to give us the first answer.

MR. SHIVERS: I would agree with everything that the Secretary said in her answer. I think it is always about being able to improve yourself on a personal level and on a professional level in any aspect of your life, just being able to advance what you currently have to make the best better, and so that the motto is all-encompassing and very good for that reason.

In my life, specifically for communications, I mean, there's always aspects that you can do better on, if it's just writing the stories that you're working on or doing interviews, it's making those connections and telling other people's stories. That's what I see myself doing, and there's always ways to do that better and more effectively, so--

MR. QUINN: Marcus?

MR. COOK:: I think the 4-H motto, what the 4-H motto means to me is we practice a lot, and, you know, the more you practice the better you get, and so it's all about practicing and making the best better, and making yourself better, and making the environment around you better.

MR. QUINN: Great. Brita?

MS. THOMAS: I think it goes a lot along what Marcus said, and I think that you can improve on everything, all your weaknesses, and on your strengths, so that they kind of even it out, and you can always improve on everything.

MR. QUINN: That's great! I don't know whether Colleen Callahan might have joined us. Colleen, if you're there, do you have a question?

I don't know if Colleen could join us today but--

MR. SAMUELSON: She had to be physically present at the NASB, probably.

MR. QUINN: Yeah; that's right. You have a story about her. You met her when she was a 4-H girl, as I recall.

MR. SAMUELSON: Colleen Callahan, at WMBD in Peoria, has been a farm broadcaster for quite a few years. She's currently president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters.

I first met Colleen when she was nine years old and was the youngest person to ever have a grand champion barrel at the international livestock exposition. That happened, I forget what year. It would have been around 1960, '61. I had just arrived in Chicago at my new job at WGN, and took her and her parents to the studio, did the interview with her, and that was my first meeting with Colleen Callahan, and I'm just proud of what she has accomplished, and yes, she was in 4-H of course. Wasn't everybody?

[Laughter.]

MR. QUINN: I'm sure she respects you a great deal, being her mentor in this case. Well, I want to give the Secretary an opportunity to ask any more questions of the 4-H youth or make any additional comments that she'd like to make today.

VENEMAN "Well, I would like to thank all of you for being here and I just appreciate very much the fact that you're willing to come over and join us with the farm broadcasters, and as well, Orion Samuelson, what a terrific opportunity.

"What I'd like to ask each of you before we leave today is about the conference you're attending and what you're learning from that".

MR. QUINN: Lucas is going to start here.

Mr. SHIVERS: Well, the name of the conference is the Conversations on Youth Development in the 21st Century and that's basically what we're doing.

We're sitting at roundtables in groups of ten and just discussing a lot of the issues that will be facing youth in the next 100 years, and it basically comes down to trying to determine what we think the needs will be and then finding solutions for those, and 4-H has done a great job of that in the past, and this is just an opportunity to celebrate and to continue to do that.

A lot of it will focus on the education aspects of 4-H and even some more on the leadership and the character education that comes along with that in terms of life skills, and basically the practices may change.

It may not be a cow that's there. It may be another project. But we want to make sure that the life skills are the same and that it will develop the individual and make the best better.

MR. QUINN: Marcus?

MR. COOK:: The conversation, you know, you get to submit your own ideas as well as hear the other ideas of people who, if you find out, are facing the same problems as you in their cities and states. So we're coming up with new ideas to try to help all these states, and bring like, to solve the problems nationally, and so we can make it better for youth.

MR. QUINN: Brita?

MS. THOMAS: I think that it will improve a lot of the youth problems and it will help with what we need to improve upon.

MR. QUINN: Very good. Orion, I'm going to give you a chance to do some wrap-up thoughts here.

MR. SAMUELSON: Some wrap-up thoughts. First of all, I was involved in moderating the state conversation in Illinois, spent an entire day with the 4-H-ers at that final state conference, and it was fascinating to hear what we're hearing today from three young people who, admittedly, couldn't talk five or six years ago.

I know the feeling. I was the same way until I got into 4-H public speaking contests. So it's gratifying that this idea has been carried forward to the extent that it has.

As Marcus says, talking to other people, learning that maybe our challenges are the same, but maybe hearing different ways that we can solve them, and for the leaders of tomorrow, which we've referred to many times, and that's you young people, you have a sense of what's out there and perhaps a sense of how to meet it.

One of the ideas I've been doodling around and I mentioned it to several 4-H-ers over the last six or seven months because I'm involved in trying to get additional funding for extension service and 4-H agents in several states because the Federal Government cut its, you know, its spending. So we're trying to get that back!

But wouldn't it be great if we could get every 4-H club member, current and former, to send one dollar to the 4-H Post Office Box 100, Centennial City, wherever, and we'd fund the 4-H program wouldn't we, because there are millions and millions of us out here, and a dollar a person could do so much for 4-H.

So I'm going to keep working on that. Maybe we can get that kind of a campaign going, because we can't afford to lose this program. We really can't.

MR. QUINN: There are a lot of believers in 4-H today and as a matter of fact, I would simply note that all of the questioners and the guests and all of us have had 4-H experience.

So rather than adjourning a broadcast, it's almost like adjourning a 4-H meeting, isn't it?

[Laughter.]

MR. SAMUELSON: It is.

MR. QUINN: Well, on behalf of all the folks here, the Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, Orion Samuelson, our three guests, Marcus Cook, Lucas Shivers and Brita Thomas, and for the broadcasters that joined us, I want to thank you all for participating in this salute to 4-H.

This is Larry Quinn bidding you a good day from the USDA radio studios in Washington.

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