Newton 4-H’ers were part of the record 117 participants in the 55th 4-H Citizenship Ceremony at State 4-H Council last month.
Each year, high school 4-H’ers gather at State 4-H Council to elect Georgia officers, make any constitutional changes, compete against the other districts, and, of course, to make new friends. While the competitions and the dance music have changed a bit over the years, traditions such as the Citizenship Ceremony haven’t changed in more than a half-century.
Harold Darden, retired associate state 4-H leader emeritus, wrote the ceremony in 1959 to charge 4-H’ers coming of voting age to take their place in the political process. In the ceremony, youths are told that "eternal vigilance is the price of democracy. The blessings it bestows come not without obligation. Active, intelligent participation rather than blind allegiance is demanded of us."
They then take the following oath:
We, individually and collectively, pledge our efforts from day to day, to fight for the ideals of this nation.
We will never allow tyranny and injustice to become enthroned in this country, through indifference to our duties as citizens. We will strive for intellectual honesty and exercise it through our power of franchise.
We will strive for perfection and social betterment.
We will devote our talents to the improvements of our homes and communities, in their recreational, social and spiritual needs.
We will endeavor to transmit this nation to posterity, not merely as we found it, but freer, happier, and more beautiful than it was received by us.
From my year in the citizenship ceremony, I remember getting to stand at the front of the Rock Eagle auditorium with a flag as we took the oath, a huge flag flying on the stage behind us.
I made sure to register to vote in Mr. Charles Woods’ classroom at Newton High as soon as I turned 17.5, so that I could vote the day I turned 18 if there were an election (there wasn’t, but I was awfully excited when my voter registration card turned up promptly after my birthday). Even as a college student in Athens, I requested each and every absentee ballot from Newton County elections.
I also made sure I was aware of what we were voting for well before the election, doing my research so that I could vote for the ideals I held most important.
My parents have chaperoned the State 4-H Council delegation for many years, and said they’ve heard a lot of discussion on the way home each year about what it means to be a good citizen. They said the 4-H’ers notice that it means more than just active and intelligent participation in voting, or even serving as soldiers.
It’s also things they’re already practicing as youths — like leaving our community more beautiful than we found it through activities with Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful, the Great American Clean-Up and Rivers Alive.
Our Youth Summit team used a grant to purchase a "little free library" to bring book lending to this community, which will be installed by the fall.
4-H’ers contribute to our community’s recreational and social needs through service such as at the Independence Day celebration on the square this week.
And as each of these youths moves off to college, they’ll take some part of this citizenship oath with them, continuing to serve our community, state, country and world for the rest of their lives.
It’s easy to see the results in our community by the number of 4-H alumni serving not only on every elected board in our county, but also by the incredible number of people ready to share a favorite 4-H memory every time you attend a community event or service project.
~ Mandy Marable, State 4-H staff, contributed to this story.
Terri Kimble is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at 770-784-2010 or email@example.com.