A few months ago, I read an alarming statistic. Our country has a high school dropout rate of one-third. Without an education and the necessary skills, job opportunities and the standard of living that comes with steady pay and benefits means more people will have to settle for low paying jobs or look to welfare as a way of life. That is a staggering amount of young people who have sealed off their future to become part of an underclass for the rest of their lives.
A few weeks ago, I heard a news report that 70% of young people do not qualify to enlist in the Army because they do not have a high school education, have a felony conviction, or are physically not fit. That is another stunning number.
We have all heard the phrase, "I have bad news and I have good news." You have just heard the bad news. How about some good news?
After attending two county fairs this week, I have seen our best and finest young people. These young people are the ones who will be leaders, parents and good neighbors for the future.
They were not dressed in any fancy clothes. Actually, they were wearing t-shirts and shorts or jeans. There were no fancy shoes either, mainly beat up running shoes or occasionally, rubber boots.
The t-shirts they were wearing frequently had a 4H or FFA emblem on them. In the livestock barns and 4H exhibits at the county fairs, I saw a group of young people any country in the world would be proud of calling their own.
If you want a boost of pride, go to the fair of your choice, preferably a county fair but state fairs are just as good. Be present at judging when each project is examined carefully by the judge and then ranked when blue ribbons are awarded to the best and purple ribbons go to the very best. However, do not stop there with your visit to the fair.
The real show is not the judging, but what is happening in the barn or the exhibit booth. That is where the real work is done in preparation as animals are groomed and stalls are made comfortable. Displays are arranged to show the project at its best. The sense of competition is strong and palpable.
There is a lot of admiration when watching a 100-pound boy or girl tow a 1,200-pound cow with a rope from place to place. Not too far away was a parent or 4H leader, maybe someone from Extension, making sure that things were going safely.
I visited with a few exhibitors, some young and some old, although describing someone in their late teens as old is difficult to do. I was told by a few this was their last year showing and college was next. One young woman who had shown horses for many years was going to school to become a veterinary technician.
A young man who was washing his two steers said he was headed to college and I asked what he would be studying, expecting him to say, "Animal science." He told me he was going for agricultural engineering with a goal to work in the design of livestock handling equipment.
These youth will look at their tasks in the future and design a plan to accomplish their goals. They will be the community leaders with families of their own. They are a tribute to their leaders who gave of themselves.