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Veneman Honors 4-H Leaders at 72nd National 4-H Conference

Marti Asner (202) 720-8188

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2002--Agriculture Secretary Ann M.Veneman today honored current and past 4-H leaders around the country who have worked closely with USDA to support the 4-H program.

Veneman bestowed the awards on 16 individuals during her keynote address at the 72nd Annual 4-H Conference's Centennial Assembly. More than 400 youths and adults were on hand to applaud the honorees.

"Programs like 4-H provide opportunities for young people to develop and improve their leadership skills," said Veneman. "Our honorees are inspiring the next generation of leaders to get involved with their communities, seek careers in public service and learn more about agriculture."

Earlier this year Veneman initiated a program called "Leaders of Tomorrow" which was inspired by the President's challenge to give back to communities and become mentors to youth. As part of the program, Veneman is encouraging people to help others through mentoring programs. The Secretary is leading the way by serving as a mentor to 4-H and FFA students when she travels across the country.

Six recipients of The National Partner in 4-H include, Secretary of State Colin Powell. This is the highest award 4-H presents to individuals, businesses, organizations, foundations, groups, government bodies and other institutions. Other recipients included Mr. Gene Swackhamer, a farmer from Sparks, Maryland; U.S. Air Force Colonel John Nelson, Brooks Air Force Base, Texas; Dr. Beverly Schmarlzried, Division Chief, U.S. Air Force Family Advocacy Program, The Pentagon; Mr. Don MacNeil of Thousand Oaks, California; and Kraft Foods. USDA provides support and leadership for 4-H across the country.

National 4-H Alumni awards were presented to seven former 4-H members who serve as community leaders, mentors and role models. Recipients included Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert; Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson; Education Secretary Roderick Paige; General Henry Shelton, U.S. Army (retired); Ms. J.A. Lucas, Chief, Child and Youth Services, U.S. Army; Mr. Loren Kruse, editor, Successful Farming magazine; and Ms. Beatrice Gladwell of Buckeye, West Virginia. Secretary Veneman and Deputy Secretary Jim Moseley also received the award. Two Salute to Excellence awards were presented to Marie Dwyer and Brenda Hawkins of Montana for their state-level contributions to youth through 4-H.