A t the tender age of 6 I made a transition from a big city, Chicago, to a small town, Montrose, Colorado. Montrose has grown considerably since I lived there, but—in many ways—it is typical of Small Town America. It is the county seat for Montrose County, a sprawling county that takes up much of the southwestern part of the state.
Like many rural counties it hosted an annual county fair in the town that shares the county name. This was my first exposure to a county fair. I learned about youth programs like 4H and FFA/FHA. I didn’t actually understand the value of these programs back then, but I do now. As it happened, I didn’t participate in them, but I learned from friends who did that these programs serve many useful purposes. One purpose is to channel the energy of young people in directions that teach them skills that will serve them throughout life. I took shop in junior high and high school and learned some useful things about tools and how to use them safely. While I didn’t opt for a career that used these skills primarily, the knowledge still has served me throughout my life.
I also participated in Boy Scouts. This program taught me self-reliance and self discipline, but I had a lot to learn in the years ahead. These programs were a start. My parents liked to tell me how hard life was when they were growing up, and—since they grew up during the Depression— they weren’t exaggerating. But, like many adults, I don’t think they fully realized the potential of young people. You don’t have to live a hard life to learn how to work, to grow up and to be a valuable member of society.
Young people often get a bad rap. The “bad” kids are the ones people notice. I would invite anyone who doesn’t see young people as the future of our society and country to attend a livestock show or county fair to see just what these kids are capable of doing with a little motivation and guidance.
I grew up, went to college and pursued several careers. I raised a family and have earned a pretty decent retirement. Every successful person today was a young person once. Every young person today has the potential to be a success.
WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.