Honoring the Past & Building the Future

I want to thank each of you for this opportunity to serve our association and I want to thank you for the kindness you showed me, for your support and for sharing the joy of your work with me.

Two years ago I stood at the business meeting in Grand Rapids and shared my thoughts and beliefs about our profession and our Association. I’ll never lose my camping roots…a hanger, a garbage bag and some duct tape will always be with me to help me through rough situations. In these past two years (as Vice President and President-elect) I’ve also discovered through my travels and work with our Board some other things I can count on to carry me…strong work ethic, laughter and commitment. It is those qualities I have seen in each of you and it is those things that give me the energy and drive for the coming year.

This Association has a rich history. Fifty-two years ago a small group gathered. They were passionate about their profession and took the time and made the effort to start this Association. Many things have changed over the years about our work and about NAE4-HA, but we are still focused to foster the highest ideals for 4-H work and to develop nationally the profession. 

This Association and my home state of New Jersey have strong ties too. The presidents’ mallet was given to NAE4-HA by NJ crafted from the famous oak tree that Joyce Klimer wrote of in “Trees.”

I also stand ready to join a group of people who I respect, admire and some of whom had immeasurable impact on my life as a 4-Her and as a professional. So to Bill Davenport, Pete Martens, Fran Mansue, John Hassert, Breve Conover and Ricki Leal (all Past Presidents from NJ) – I hope I can do all my best to maintain the tradition of leadership from my home state.

Management focuses on doing things right. Leadership focuses on doing the right thing. Success is knowing when each one is needed and finding the balance to respond to the challenges and opportunities that face our Association and our Board. 

The realities of life require management and leadership. It is important to me that this Association function as a community and worry less about roles and focus more on what needs to be done to strive towards achieving our goal to promote, strengthen, embrace and advocate the 4-H Youth Development profession.

It is important to me that we continue to practice sound fiscal management of our resources.

It is important to me that 4-H professionals reflect and be representative of the communities we serve. And that this Association reflect that too in its membership and leadership. I want this Association to embrace our diverse background, cultures and ideas.

I also believe that we need to encourage and enable people to lead NAE4-HA. Many people have said to me this past year they couldn’t consider running for an office or applying for an appointed position because of the amount of time it takes. Time can be measured in many ways…how much, how long, maybe when we have more of it or how little there is of it. I put the challenge to each of you, if we waited until the time was right or if we had enough of it – then many of us will miss out on significant parts of our lives – going for an advanced degree, getting married, having a family, even serving this Association. The only important question you should ask is, “what is the best for me and the loved ones around me.”

It is also important to me that we never lose sight of why we really decided to make 4-H our career choice. One day this summer, when Union County was at camp, I asked an 11 year old boy what he liked best about the week. Without a moment’s hesitation, he looked me straight in the eye and said “the best thing about camp is I can eat all the food I want.” My memories of camp are much different; they focused on fun and pranks and new friends. But for that boy, being able to have meals with unlimited helpings of food was important to him. Each is important and special for its own reason. And each should be valued and cherished.

It is also important to me that this Association is an active player with our sister organizations, ESP, NAEFCS and NACAA. I believe our strength in the System does not come from independence but from cooperation, collaboration and partnering.

I also value listening. I believe it is essential to really hear what people say, especially those whose perspective, ability and judgement is radically different from my own. This isn’t an easy task – being an effective listener, because while you do that, you must also be willing to be humble, tolerant and forgiving.

You know, I try to view life in perspective; concentrate on the positive. Keep failure and mistakes in perspective too: and develop enthusiasm. I try to see something good in every experience I have.

And with all of this it is important to have dreams. Where do we want to be in 10 years; what can this Association be and look like? I hope that along with the function and tasks of the Board, we can also do some really hard dreaming. I want us to dream in such a way that we become homesick for a place we have never been to, perhaps more homesick for that than familiar ground.

Kentucky conducted a great national meeting and I salute all for their effort. Their effort of teamwork and cooperation is a grand model for us all.

I look forward to spending this coming year with each of you.