Feel-Good Friday: 4-H Auctioneer Mentors Children on the Value of Livestock and the Value of Life

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

East Idaho News, in conjunction with Ashley Home Stores, looks for people to honor for their contribution to the local community. This week, they honored Dan Williams, an auctioneer and high school instructor from Rexburg County, Idaho. William’s focus is agricultural auctions, and for 15 years he has been involved in 4-H auctions and mentorship.

Not being a parent, I have not heard about 4-H since I was in high school. I frankly was surprised to see it’s still around, and equally surprised that its main goal is to build leadership skills in our youth.

The benefit of these programs cannot be understated. Sadly, over the past decade, we have seen a deficit where such programs do not exist.

4-H is shorthand for the organization’s original motto: “head, heart, hands, and health.” In 1927, the motto was incorporated into a fuller pledge:

My Head to clearer thinking
My Heart to greater loyalty
My Hands to larger service
My Health to better living
For my club, my community, my country and my world.

I hearken back to my Feel-Good Friday piece on Corion Evans, the Mississippi teen who saved three girls and a police officer from drowning. I talked about the type of clear-headedness, physical strength and endurance, and care and compassion that was built into this young man, and needs to be found in more of our youth. It is a good thing that programs like 4-H still exist and commit to building these values in our nation’s young people.

4-H has a national infrastructure and networks through our college and university system, but focuses on local in-school and after-school programs in and outside of education, where children and teenagers complete hands-on projects in the areas like health and science, agriculture and civic engagement, with the assistance of adult mentors.

So, the fact that Williams has done this for 15 years, and continues to do so, is a testament to his love for the work, and his love for building the youth of his community.

According to Nate Eaton of East Idaho News, Williams’ personal motto is:

“We don’t have kids to help raise our livestock. We have livestock to help raise our kids.”

As you can see from the video, Williams is very modest and humble about his contribution to the community in teaching responsibility, leadership, problem-solving, and economic investment to his 4-H youth. In his particular arm of agriculture, the children are put in charge of an animal’s well-being. First, they have to purchase the animal. Once purchased, the child is responsible for the cost of the animal’s maintenance, growth, and upkeep. That means getting up every morning to feed the animal, and ensuring they are fed and bedded down at night.

Three domesticated dogs are work enough for me; I cannot imagine tending to actual livestock. As much as I have learned from taking on the care and responsibility of canines, I can only imagine the wealth of knowledge that is gained when caring for a bovine, swine, equine, or other types of farm animal.

The goal of this 4-H component is that once the animal is fully grown, it will have reached the proper weight to qualify for the auction. Williams gets to go full circle with his youth mentees by auctioning off their animals, and the mentees get to see their hard work, dedication, and work product returned to their local community.

Williams’ investment in the youth of his community goes beyond 4-H, and it’s an investment that they will draw from for the rest of their lives.

We need more folks like Dan Williams and more programs that do the work of 4-H.

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