My daughter, Katie, presented three 4-H projects at the Indiana State Fair again this year. The experience wasn’t quite as successful as last year. Her Grand Champion photography at the county level did glean a blue ribbon, but she (and her parents) learned some hard-knock imperatives with her other projects: beekeeping and public speaking.
Her beekeeping project was registered right before the deadline, hastily, in the wrong division. If you are unfamiliar with 4-H projects, there are very strict rules regarding topics, titles and age divisions. Unfortunately for Katie, she is in Division 2 but she was registered in Division 1. She was basically disqualified, with a green “participation” ribbon. No division changes allowed.
I thought her speech on the dairy program was very well executed, as did one of the judges. The second judge had a different opinion, with no encouraging comments. Afterward, she provided a verbal reference on her attire being “unprofessional”. The first judge wrote she looked “awesome” and provided excellent pointers for her future as a speaker. She wasn’t disappointed with her red ribbon. She is secure enough to know she did her best and a 4:48 minute speech, nor her cowboy boots, define who she is. It took a few days for our usually-resilient daughter to overcome the polarized comments and scores from individuals she was to respect, who were placed in the position of judge by people she trusts.
This year the State Fair experience was a tough pill to swallow, but all was not lost. We were all reminded of a few excellent life lessons: don’t procrastinate; double-check your work before it is submitted; know your project; be cognizant of the difference between constructive criticism and being critical; and, be kind… you never know whose future you may impact.