AMES, Iowa – What do former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, former NFL MVP Archie Manning and country singer Dolly Parton have in common? Now recognized nationally for their respective roles, they were once 4-H'ers, and Jessie Hammerand has their signatures to prove it.
The Dubuque County 4-H'er gathered contact information for 40 distinguished 4-H alumni from all walks of life including singers, actors, athletes, coaches, organization presidents, CEOs and politicians. Sending them letters that requested their participation, Hammerand asked for their signature and a short explanation of their 4-H experiences. She then created a poster with a Declaration of 4-H in the middle that resembled the Declaration of Independence, added their signatures to the manuscript and titled it “4-H is…Freedom.” The poster won a Seal of Excellence at the Iowa State Fair.
“When people view my poster I would like them to experience a sense of 4-H history and know that 4-H alumni are made up from all walks of life,” Hammerand said. “4-H offers many opportunities and experiences.”
And her respondents were diverse. Harvard president Drew Faust raised two Hereford steers named Toby and Ferdinand. Garfield creator Jim Davis also had beef projects, and Iowa’s Lt. Gov. Patty Judge still bakes her same pie recipe that has been declared the “world’s best” according to her family. For Steve Larson, editor of the national Hoard’s Dairyman magazine, involvement in dairy projects as a 4-H'er was instrumental in his career choice.
“Showing cattle and participating in dairy cattle judging contests stimulated my interest in the dairy industry and were major factors in my 40-year career as an editor of Hoard’s Dairyman magazine,” he said.
Others described how the values of 4-H became part of their lives.
“The 10 years I spent in 4-H were important to me,” said Davis. “Anyone who does not have a good work ethic before joining 4-H certainly does afterwards.”
Astronaut Jerry Ross agreed, saying, “4-H is a very good way for young people to learn how to set and achieve goals, to learn how to be leaders and to learn how to do things that will be useful as adults.”
Also responding were singer Janie Fricke and former race car driver Ned Jarrett, along with a late response from former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad that didn’t make the original poster. In addition to signatures, Hammerand received two signed football cards from former NFL player Herschel Walker.
Hammerand plans to display her poster in a variety of places. Currently it hangs in the Why Opportunity Works (WOW) Center at the Iowa State University Extension 4-H Youth Building in Ames, but she also has plans to display it around her community during National 4-H Week and eventually have it framed for her home.
“It is a project I will always treasure, and I am still hoping to receive more signatures,” she said. Respondents such as Branstad wished her luck.
“Keep up the good work, stay involved and keep telling your story on how much enjoyment you get out of being a 4-H member,” he said.
Gov. Chet Culver has officially proclaimed Oct. 5-11, 2008, as National 4-H Week in Iowa.
In Iowa, the 4-H program is a part of Iowa State University Extension and headquartered on the ISU campus in Ames. For more information about 4-H or how to get involved contact your local county office of ISU Extension.
Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-0775, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hannah McCulloh, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-9915,