Dear MacKenzie Scott,
They’re two simple words, but they’re the best I could do. And I was taught by my 4-H leaders to always send a note when someone has done something remarkable.
It might not have seemed remarkable for you. After all, you and your team at your foundation have given away nearly $9 billion of your reported $44.8 billion fortune in less than two years. But your $50 million gift to the National 4-H Council (the single largest gift in its 120-year history) is going to have a profound impact on America’s nearly 6 million 4-H members.
Now I’m sure your team learned from the development staff at 4-H just how your dollars will be spent for youth development across the country. And, maybe you or your husband, Dan Jewett, have a more personal connection to 4-H that we don’t know about. But let me share with you how the 4-H program shapes the future thinkers, dreamers and doers of America.
You’ll hear a lot about project work, and maybe you’ve been to a county or a state fair and have seen exhibits from 4-H members. Learning by doing is the secret to 4-H’s success. See, you can have an adult tell a child how to do something; they might watch a TikTok video tutorial; but until they’ve tried and failed and tried again with their own two hands, the lesson just won’t stick.
It’s like learning to ride a bike. Sure, you fell down and scraped a knee a few times, but you kept at it until you learned. Does this process sting your pride a little? Yes. But 4-H’ers learn from their mistakes, and they try again until they succeed.
You may have also heard about leadership and citizenship development in our members. That’s also a key component to 4-H. Each time we recite the 4-H pledge, we are reminded that we use our head, heart, hands and health for the greater good.
Members are taught that they have an obligation to use their skills to help their communities through service projects. Not only do they benefit our local surroundings and neighbors, but these projects teach valuable empathy to young people.
Members are also expected to take on leadership roles as they get older, and to think beyond the city limits or the county line. If you look at the list of 4-H alumni currently serving on Capitol Hill, or who’ve led our nation as president, or who head major companies, you’ll see that leadership and citizenship sticks with a member for their entire lifetime.
You and your team might have thought your gift was just about youth development, but 4-H also helps the adult volunteers who work with youth as project leaders, organizational leaders, county fair superintendents and more. Sure, some of us are alumni, and we feel obligated to give back. But there’s also a segment of adult volunteers who have never experienced 4-H and who are learning right alongside the youth themselves.
My dad was a perfect example of this. He wasn’t a member, yet when we children joined, he stepped up to lead the beef project and learned right there with us. There’s plenty of parents like him out there who didn’t belong to a youth organization as kids, but who are developing leadership and other skills with their kids through project work and club participation.
Now, I’m not naive. There’s bound to be naysayers to your generous gift, but I hope you understand that 4-H isn’t just about livestock projects. It’s not just for farm kids. The 4-H program really does offer #Opportunity4All. And I’d like to extend an open invitation to you and your husband to visit a local 4-H club, go to a county or state fair, or even volunteer as leaders yourselves so you can experience the program yourselves.
This gift shows that you indeed have the heart of a 4-H’er. You’re well on your way to “making the best better.”
A grateful 4-H alum