Here is the text of his speech:
Thank you Worthy Master, Associates of the State Grange and brothers and sisters all. Think back ten or twelve years when all of you in this room were teenagers. Remember how the most important things you wanted were to feel that you had a voice, adults trusted you, and that you could meet and go to fun events with lots of amazing people all over the country.
First, I would like to talk about giving the young people in our Granges a voice. There is a story about a youth member in a Grange who suggested painting the doors of the Grange Hall pink. Imagine wanting to paint the doors of a building the color of Pepto Bismol? Another officer who felt that her idea deserved a hearing stood up and seconded the idea – after all, pink is the color of Flora. This meant that the Grange had to debate the motion. In the end, the Grange decided to paint their three doors in the colors of the Graces, yellow for Ceres, green for Pomona, and pink for Flora. This new youth member got to see her idea taken seriously, debated, and put into action.
Another way to give our youth a voice is through the National Grange “Apathy Not Allowed” program:
This new National Grange Youth Legislative Program, entitled Apathy Not Allowed, is a joint venture between the National Grange’s Youth and Legislative Departments that seeks to educate Grange Youth on crucial legislative matters affecting them and their Granges. Subsequently, involved Youth will be educated on the many ways in which Grangers and citizens alike can advocate for the issues they feel important to shaping public policy and the communities in which they live.
All people like to be heard and know that others consider that what they have to say is important. Remember to give your younger members the chance to bring up issues important to them. Do you encourage them to explore the issues they care about and help them write resolutions?
Do you ask the youth in your Grange if they want to hold an office or be the member of one of your Grange committees? Or do you just recycle the same slate of officers every election? If we have them sit on the sidelines, what reason do youth have to come to meetings? Let’s ask them where they want to serve in the Grange and nominate them for offices in which they show interest. Ponkapoag Grange’s new youth member attended the election of officers at the Mass State Grange Youth Leadership Association not two weeks after joining the Grange and asked to be nominated for an office and now he is the Assistant Steward of the Youth Association. I recently visited Upton Grange where they have elected a youth member as their Lecturer and she is working to bring back the Community Citizen Award among other great ideas. The time to get youth and new members involved is when they are still excited about serving the Grange.
Everyone needs to feel that they are trusted and needed, young people are no exception. We need to give them a reason to make the Grange a more important part of their schedule.
I love the Grange and it was important to my life and I made time for it, but I was also involved in a community chorus, handbell choir, and choir at church. Yet when I was elected Gatekeeper of the State Grange, the Grange moved up in importance in my life. I left the chorus I had been part of for 7 years in order to have more time to visit Granges and work on my responsibilities for State Grange. Ever since I served as Secretary of Bedford Grange at 16 years old, I have known that in the Grange I would be trusted. It is time to trust the next generation of Grangers. It shows them that we value them and their time and enthusiasm.
We can’t forget the fun events that are held all over the state and the country. Just this past weekend we had our State Grange Talent, Public Speaking, Sign-a-song, and Bake-Off. The winner of the Talent Contest was a youth who will now go on to National Grange Session to represent us at the National Grange Evening of Excellence.
Have you supported our youth program by attending youth events in Massachusetts? Come and play miniature golf, bowl a few frames, picnic at the family fun day, sign-a-song, or make an impromptu or prepared speech at the State Public Speaking Contest. Our youth department works hard to create engaging and exciting contests and programs. It is up to Grangers across the state to attend these events and show the youth that they really matter.
Three times I have been given the opportunity to represent Massachusetts in the National Grange Youth Officer Team. At National Grange Conventions I got to meet young people from all over the country and see how National Grange works and the way the resolutions from our local and state Granges were given a fair hearing in the committees and on the floor. I got to see the drill I wrote for the State Officers enacted by the National Grange Youth Officer Team. Let’s get the young people of Massachusetts involved in these contests and honors. The National Grange Youth program encourages youth to explore the history of the Grange, represent their state as an Ambassador, learn public speaking, and improve their leadership skills.
The Grange in Massachusetts has made many strides forward in our youth program. In the last year we won the drill competition at the Northeast Grange Youth Conference, our youth team put on an exemplification of the first degree at State Session, and we reorganized the Massachusetts State Grange Youth Leadership Association with a full slate of officers. It is the work of our dedicated youth directors, the time and energy of our youth members, and our State Grange’s desire to make the youth program as vibrant and engaging as possible. Let us all as Grangers in Massachusetts get behind the youth program. It is time that the opportunities the Grange offers youth and young adults stop being one of our best kept secrets and receive the support of all Massachusetts Grange members.