29 June 2014 - Let’s Not Destroy Initiative and Drive

My column a week ago on attending and supporting your County and State Fair in any way that you can, did generate a few e-mails and comments. Most of them were positive and I thank you for that. So I repeat . . . support your County and State Fair by attending and volunteering.

But there were a couple of e-mails from different parts of the country that I want to write about this week. I heard from the parents of a 4-H Club member, and from another part of the country I heard from a 4-H leader, both e-mails lamenting the fact that the County Fair Board at their County Fair, had voted to do away with blue ribbons. The reason given in both cases for doing that is because they were concerned it would damage the psyche of young people who didn’t get the blue ribbon and discourage them from trying again.

I simply don’t understand that kind of thinking. Whatever happened to rewarding hard work and excellence? Whatever happened to challenging and encouraging those who didn’t win the blue ribbon to try even harder next year? I just can’t imagine a young person being damaged for life because of not winning a blue ribbon or a grand championship.

Let me share this story with you one more time; if you read my book you already know the story. I’m convinced that we learn more from losing than we do from winning, if we handle it in a positive way. When I was a senior at Ontario High School in Ontario, Wisconsin, I was one of the five finalists in the FFA State Public Speaking Contest. It was the Original Oration competition where you wrote and memorized your speech and then responded to questions from three judges when you finished delivering your speech. I worked hard on my preparation and I felt confident I could win the contest and bring the trophy back to my little high school of less than a hundred students. The judges finished their work; the results were announced and I came in fourth out of five.

What happened? I couldn’t understand? But my FFA Advisor turned it into a learning experience as we prepared to drive back home when he said . . . “We’re going to talk about it when we get back to Ontario because you can learn some things that can make you a better speaker”. We had that conversation and it was one of the stepping stones that led me to a radio/TV career that I’ve enjoyed for 62 years.

So don’t do away with Grand Championships or Blue ribbons at County or State Fairs. And don’t do away with Valedictorians at High School and College graduations. Reward excellence and encourage those who don’t win this year to learn from the experience, to see how they can improve and come back and try again next year. A win the ‘second time around’ can mean even more!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.