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Head, heart, hands and health. For decades 4-H members have recited the pledge to use their talents and abilities for the betterment of themselves, their communities, their country and their world.

But as an alumna of this program, I propose that we adults consider adding a “Fifth H” to our pledge—Hope. After all, the point of the 4-H program—yesterday and today—has been to invest in our young people who are the hope of tomorrow.

You see parents and family members don’t invest time and money into project work for a 99-cent nylon ribbon and bragging rights on Facebook. They do it in the hope that their children will grow in confidence and leadership and they’ll make friends that last a lifetime. That’s the kind of legacy that will sustain them when they’re on their own.

Community members don’t spend hours volunteering at the county fair, sitting in board meetings or leading project lessons out of some obligation of civic duty. They volunteer with the hope that one of the young people they help out today will be the next volunteer to take their place and improve on what’s being done today.

The adults who contribute to 4-H and its young people do so with the hope that the next generation will grow into leaders who can bring change to our world tomorrow.

But this Fifth H requires young people to pledge their hope, too.

It takes hope to envision a future and then work toward making that vision a reality. Hope is the foundation for every other skill and relationship they develop in the program. Without hope, there can be no clearer thinking, greater loyalty, community service or better living.

Right now, in certain pockets around our nation, that hope is in pretty limited supply among our young people. It’s been shaken by current events and it may seem as if there’s no point in envisioning a future if the adults in charge can’t even agree to be civil to each other. I hear that a lot.

But I’m here to tell you that hope is not lost, as long as there’s a few keeping it bright and willing to share that hope with others who run low.

One of the 4-H members of today will be our future president. Another will find the cure for cancer, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases. A few will be the first to step foot on Mars. They may well be the parents who volunteer with the PTA, the lawyer who stands for justice, the entertainer who uses his or her platform for change, or the teachers who shape the generations that follow.

And yes, one day, one might very well write for High Plains Journal and give a voice to our industry.

You see, folks, the silent lesson of 4-H is that no one can make lasting change alone and in one lifetime. It takes so many to see the broad, sweeping long-term goals and to work, little by little toward their completion, whether it’s building a birdhouse or starting a community food drive.

Feeding the hungry, tending the sick, speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves, even finding compromises and peaceful resolutions to conflict—these are grand goals that the 4-H members of tomorrow may very well solve.

If they just have a little bit of hope.

So, here and now, I pledge my hope to the next generation, that they may carry the torches we lay down before them. Finish the races we can’t finish. Start goals for the ones who follow you. And keep the hope of a better tomorrow alive with what you do today.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

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