With news this past week of the Illinois State Fairs being cancelled this year due to coronavirus, along with many other county fairs, livestock shows and 4-H fairs, it is important we recognize the contributions young people have put in during these trying times.
Call me biased, but young people in agriculture are some of the most well-rounded and hardest working amongst their peers. Don’t let their thick-skinned, yet respectful, exteriors fool you — these kids pour their heart and soul into their projects and in doing so learn lessons that will last a lifetime. Their callused hands, toughness and heart they put into their work in preparation for showcase events like fairs and livestock shows has given way to sharp disappointment many are feeling over cancellations. While this disappointment may be dulled by commendable efforts of event organizers to host virtual shows and allow these young farmers and producers an opportunity to showcase their hard work, but it is yet another blow to our young people’s good efforts at a tough time.
For many, graduation ceremonies were cancelled. This is especially true of our Fair Queen candidates. For others, their Spring FFA events were postponed or cancelled; another opportunity for them to allow adults they respect to judge them on their hard work. Their classes were cancelled as well as athletic events and commencement celebrations. Those who raise animals at home on their farms are finding some of the most trying times in generations for their families and their livelihoods. Their social lives are also on hold and universally impacts all age groups. But we don’t talk nearly enough about the impact on these young future leaders.
It is important that we put aside some of the vitriol and differences of opinions we’ve been lobbing at each other as adults and recognize that we need to spend some time recognizing the impact of this unprecedented period on our future leaders. What are we teaching them? Are we taking this opportunity to reward them for a job well done? We should take the time and talk with them more about what opportunities they want for their future and where they’d like to spend it. Some of those conversations will be harder than we can imagine. The lessons we teach them now are the ones that may matter most.
It is important we all support organizations that teach young people about our shared Northwest Illinois Values. This certainly includes, taking care of one’s neighbors, living within one’s means, an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay and to leave a place better than you found it. Let these young people see from us transparency and accountability in matters of public business and that hard work and determination breed success. We owe them our attention and best efforts at this critical time in their lives and what we hope is only a brief period of darkness preceding to a very bright future.