Today 200 4-H members from across the country came to the nation's capital to make their voice heard as part of the 2012 National 4-H Conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed the delegates during the morning general session.
"These 4-H members are extraordinary role models and mentors in their communities," Dr. Biden said. "Just as our military men and women serve our country on the battlefield, these young people lead in our communities. Over the next few decades, one of the tasks that will define their generation will be their support for our returning veterans and our military families."
"For almost 100 years, USDA and 4-H have partnered to produce some of our nation's best and brightest, including farmers and ranchers who have supported the American economy and put food on our tables," Vilsack said. "You all are tomorrow's leaders. We need you to think big, innovate and help tackle the important challenges standing between us, a stronger middle class and a stronger nation."
Dr. Biden, a longtime educator, spoke to conference participants about Joining Forces, the initiative she started with First Lady Michelle Obama to encourage all Americans to support military families. Dr. Biden encouraged 4-H members to not only continue their longtime support of military families, but to continue to act as role models and mentors in their communities.
Participants at this year's conference will engage in personal development experiences that increase their knowledge, resources and skills on issues that matter most to them. As in previous years, delegates will participate in roundtable discussions with partnering federal agencies about topics specific to issues affecting youth and communities nationwide and the role 4-H can play in addressing those issues. Issue topics for this year's conference include: alcohol and drug use prevention, youth suicide prevention, healthy eating and living, equal education for under-represented groups, integration of veteran and military families into local communities, and using science and technology to improve local communities.
Also during this year's conference, delegates will learn about a new partnership with the Department of Homeland Security focused on cyber security. The Stop.Think.Connect Campaign will provide 4-H participants with the tools and resources to help raise awareness among teens and young adults regarding emerging online threats and the importance of cybersecurity. This partnership builds on the campaign's efforts to highlight resources available to schools and communities, as well as to promote cyber awareness and educate America's youth about safe online practices.
Since the first conference in 1927, the National 4-H Conference, known as the "Secretary's Conference," continues to be USDA's premier forum to engage youth in developing recommendations for the 4-H Youth Development Program.
4-H National Headquarters seeks to promote positive youth development, facilitate learning and engage young people with the efforts of USDA and the land-grant universities to enhance their quality of life. Nearly 6 million young people, ages 5-19, participate in 4-H youth development programs in all 50 states, territories and military installations worldwide. More information is available at www.national4-hheadquarters.gov.
Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.