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4-H Canada Blog
The 4-H Difference – Meet Ontario 4-H Alumnus, Senator Rob Black
There are over 350,000 4-H alumni across Canada that are leading their communities and creating positive change in the world around them. In this new blog series, we will share their stories and how they are making an impact in their communities.
By Logan Emiry, 4-H Ontario Youth Advisory Committee representative
Being a 4-H Canada Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) representative means having the opportunity to help plan programs and marketing campaigns as well as representing 4-H members at special events across Canada. Last fall, I was privileged to be invited to the Senate of Canada to join 4-H members from Quebec, volunteers and staff for a special Show Your 4-H Colours reception hosted by The Honourable Rob Black, Senator from Ontario.
Following the event, I connected with Senator Black, to learn more about how 4-H helped him on his journey to the Senate.
Check out the upcoming inaugural edition of The Pledge, 4-H Canada’s new magazine for alumni for more of Senator Black’s interview.
Logan: How has 4-H shaped you and prepared you to be a Senator?
Senator Rob Black: For me, 4-H was my starting point. I joined when I was 12 years old and completed six clubs over the five years I was a member. I use the skills I gained through 4-H every day, and I would not be in the Senate of Canada if it was not for 4-H. I have said that before and I will continue to say that. 4-H helped me build the networks I rely on today. I can pick up the phone and call Kim McConnell (Director, 4-H Canada Board of Directors) or Logan Emiry and that’s amazing.
L: What lessons did you learn during the [Senate] application process?
R: The application asked about my beliefs and values and I think we need to know what these are for each of us.
Also, I learned to never give up. My initial application was turned down and I could have given up after that. I knew there were thousands of applications and any one of them would have been a good choice. Lots of people give up but I didn’t. I was lucky enough to be chosen and now I sit in the Red Chamber. It’s humbling and a privilege to walk up Parliament Hill each day.
L: What is your favourite 4-H memory or experience?
R: By far my favourite 4-H experience was travelling to Alberta in 1978 through the Open House Canada Exchange Program, now called Club to Club Exchange. This program brought my family and my host family in Alberta together. My twin and I became like brothers. We were back and forth to see each other a lot growing up. I was his best man and he was my best man at our weddings. It’s been over 40 years since the exchange, and our families still keep in touch.
L: What mentors did you have in 4-H or in your professional journey?
R: We often say it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a lot of mentors to raise a person. There are three mentors I’m grateful to have in my life.
First off, is my grandmother. She encouraged me to get involved. She never said no and always got things done. Another I will mention is Ken Knox. He gave me my first job in the Ministry of Agriculture. He is a close friend and has been a mentor of mine for over 30 years. He is always willing to sit down and talk like all good mentors do. Christine Dukelow is the third. She was a boss, a colleague and is a dear friend. She asks tough questions and gives tough answers sometimes, but I know they are from the heart and that is meaningful.
L: What does it mean to you to be a 4-H alumnus?
R: As a 4-H alumnus I enjoy being part of the 4-H family, here in Ontario and across Canada and I enjoy being able to give back, in a variety of ways. In my networks and circles, I don’t have to go far to meet up with or see the impact that 4-H has had on organizations and agricultural and rural leaders across the province and country. In my role now as Senator, I continue to advocate for, promote and support the program that has done so much for me over many years.
Photo credit: The Senate of Canada