Sunday, September 16, 2012

SimGenetics' Junior Activities Prepares Youth

 by Sam Hodges
This summer, I was fortunate enough to work as an Intern on Capitol Hill in the Office of Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas District 1. District one covers the Tyler/Longview/Lufkin areas. As I prepared to move to Washington and begin work, I read through the Intern Manual to prepare for the job. As an intern, you are essentially a filter for incoming calls and emails to the Congressman. As a call comes in, I would answer, listen to the constituent (person living in Texas District 1), answer any questions he or she had about statements made by the Congressman or upcoming legislation, and log their comments into the data management system by topic, opinion, and urgency. In addition to this, I ran errands for the office, delivered documents to the Congressman he needed on the House floor from the office, transcribed committee meetings and hearings, made sure the refrigerator was stocked with drinks, sorted incoming mail by topic, and directed calls to the appropriate staff member in the office.
                  Another job I had, which is unique to Congressman Gohmert’s office, was to assist him on night tours of the Capitol Building, which he usually leads once a week while the House of Representatives is in session. These tours are very informative and entertaining because Mr. Gohmert is a history buff, with a History Degree from Texas A&M University, and they are very through. We led groups through almost every room in the Capitol, including going onto both the House and Senate floor where votes are cast and issues are debated, the old Supreme Court chambers, the old Senate Chambers, Statuary Hall (the old House Chamber, the rotunda, the Speaker’s balcony, and the Congressional Prayer room. These tours last around 3 hours, but are intriguing.
                  Working for Congressman Gohmert was an extremely enlightening experience. Being on the Hill and witnessing how much effort goes into passing one piece of legislation, the hectic schedules of members of Congress, and how this all balances out was eye-opening. I was very lucky to work in an office that I could interact with the Congressman too. Other interns living in the townhouse I stayed in at Eastern Market only met their Congressman once or twice over the course of the summer and were never given actual things to do other than answer the phone. Mr. Gohmert made a point to talk to the interns, and normally took us to lunch once a week when he was in the office.
                  Being selected to Intern, in any capacity be it on the Hill, at a research lab, in a ranch breeding facility, or with an investment bank, requires ambition and self-motivation. You must have a strong desire to succeed and put your best foot forward. Where did I acquire these skills that helped me be successful on the job? A large portion of it was from my family and community growing up. Their unwavering support heavily equipped me with motivation. Another huge contributor was the professionalism and practical skills I developed in the Simbrah/Simmental Junior Program. The verbal communication skills I learned from participating in Sales Talk and Public Speaking at TJSSA State Futurity, American Junior Simbrah Roundup, and Cow Camp at Smith Genetics gave me an edge over colleagues and help you stand out because you are able to take a piece of information, process it in your mind, then clearly communicate its meaning to another person. This helps tremendously when explaining issues to constituents on the phone, visitors in the office, or in meetings with staffers and the Congressman. Yes, from time to time the Congressman would call us into his office and have us explain what the callers were talking about and why they held the opinions they expressed to us. As you might imagine, not all callers were friendly supporters or inquisitive constituents. Some individuals simply wanted to call in and pick a fight because their views did not match the Congressman on ways he voted on legislation. Through participation in Showmanship, we learn how to be good sports and keep our calm in the show ring while maintaining focus. This “practice” helped me remain civil and calm although callers on the other end may have been yelling or using profanity.  And finally, the overall broad knowledge we learn about agriculture and the specifics we learn about breeding and cattle management help too. Not everyone knows that there are different breeds of cattle. Not everyone knows that embryo transplants and artificial insemination are common practices in our industry. This base knowledge we are equipped with enables us to engage in conversations about legislation or issues arising in agriculture (House Resolution 6233 The Agriculture Disaster Assistance Act of 2012 addressing aid to farmers and ranchers in these harsh drought conditions) and provide valuable input. My point is simple. The programs provided as contests to Juniors in our breed have real-world applicability. Will your Junior know how to A.I. a cow because they participated in one of these events? No. Will studying and preparing for the quizzes help them gain a better understanding of our industries practices? Yes. Will participating in Showmanship, Sales Talk, and Public Speaking develop their communication skills and self-discipline? Yes. Although it may seem silly to some Juniors to compete in these contests and they may be afraid of answering a question wrong or saying the wrong thing, I strongly urge you to encourage them to participate. The only way for them to improve is to practice, study, and eventually put themselves to the test by getting out there and doing it!
                  As you can see, there are both direct and indirect benefits to our Junior program. Having run the Simbrah/Simmental Junior gauntlet, and interacted with countless friends showing different breeds of cattle, I can honestly say that we got it right. Opportunities afforded to Simbrah/Simmental kids are endless compared to other Junior programs and I am extremely thankful to everyone who helped make my junior experience as informative and enjoyable as it was both inside and outside of the show ring.

Sam Hodges is a current senior Political Science Major/History Minor at Texas A&M University, and is a member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets where he serves as Commander of the Cadet Leadership Council.