Your role in making America a better place

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American flag

I hope each of you had a relaxing Fourth of July holiday. I am so thankful for all of the freedoms we are able to enjoy and for our nation’s rich heritage. We are blessed to live in this country! I hope each of you had time to pause and give thanks over the long holiday weekend. Men and women from all walks of life have sacrificed so that we can enjoy abundant freedoms.

Each quarter, the Ashtabula County Extension staff holds an accountability meeting with our 25-member Ashtabula County Extension Advisory (EAC) Committee. This committee has become an excellent advisery committee for our staff. They review our activities, ask the “so-what” questions, and dialogue about current issues.

Leadership crisis

When we met in June, our committee tackled a question which Cathann Kress, our new dean for the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State University, posed at a recent meeting of the State Extension Advisory Committee.

This question was, “Is there a leadership crisis in our state?”

During our EAC meeting, our committee addressed this question. The conversation ranged from civility, work ethic, reliance on public assistance, generational differences, leadership, employability, mental health, mentorship, responsibility and basic life skills.

As our committee visited, it was apparent that the crisis in leadership is not a Democrat versus Republican issue; a liberal versus conservative issue; nor rural versus urban. I think it can be summed up best in an article I came across written by Mike Myatt, for Forbes Magazine. In his article, titled A Crisis of Leadership — What is Next, Myatt stated the issue is one that extends beyond parties, philosophies and geographic boarders.

The issue is simply this: We have forgotten what leadership looks like. Myatt shared that our world is suffering greatly at the hands of people who have placed their desire to be right above the desire to achieve the right outcome.

Ironically, this article was written in 2013. But it could have been easily written today. For me, I believe it is simply a matter of the heart. Instead being a God-centric society, we have become an ego-centric one.

Take action

And technology and connectivity has helped in this shift. So if we are in a leadership crisis, what can we do? As our committee examined the crisis in leadership, some key action points arose.

First, the need for more civility was cited.

Second, the need for mentorship of our youth is more important than it ever has been.

And third, it was advocated that we get back to the basics in teaching life skills both in schools and in the home. Myatt wrote in his article, “It’s time to say enough is enough — it’s time for a real leadership movement.

The demand for true leaders has never been greater — when society misunderstands the importance of leadership, and when the world inappropriately labels non-leaders as leaders we are all worse for the wear.”

One of our EAC committee members stated, “Don’t confuse politicians with leadership.” Bottom line, leadership begins with each of us.

Colin and Alma Powell wrote an excellent article titled A Pleas to America’s Adults in this month’s Readers Digest, talking about developing the next generation. Ask most Baby Boomers and GenXers what they think about the Millennials and you will most likely hear a lot of exasperation.

Maybe it is time to look in the mirror and simply ask — who raised them? Colin and Alma Powell suggest you do not have to be a hero to be part of the solution. In fact, the most direct, personal and influential role needed in America is good mentors.

Quality employees

One of the concerns brought up by our EAC committee was finding quality employees. All businesses, and yes, even farms, can reach out and identify talented young people and give them the training they need.

The Powells mentioned whenever they hear complaints about the lack of skilled labor, their response is: Grow your own. Have you thought of offering an Internship program on your farm each summer? Bring an intern in, implement a good training program, and you will be surprised how your employee pool increases. So, do we have a crisis of leadership? Does your farm?

I challenge you to have a discussion with your family and farm business about leadership. What are your challenges and what steps can you take to overcome them?

More action

Mayak stated, “It’s time for less talk and more action. We must dialog and debate, but most of all, we must listen, learn and act.”

Colin and Alma Powell stated: “This cause of helping children become healthy, moral, skilled adults is the cause that will determine the future of our nation. Raising children prepared for lives of accomplishment, self-respect, and contribution is our core responsibility. We can make a difference, one caring adult and one child at a time.”

So as we relax and are thankful for our freedoms, I challenge each of us to examine how we can make America a better place, one caring adult and one child at a time. Let the discussion begin.

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