Long before she shared her knowledge about Florida politics with local, state and national audiences — Susan MacManus was involved with 4-H.
In fact, she credits her experiences through 4-H with helping her to develop the skills that would become so important in her career as professor of political science, and as a political analyst for national presidential conventions.
MacManus has never forgotten how important 4-H has been in her life, and for years, she has put in a good word to people in power, when she could — to help support the organization.
She also volunteered time to be a judge — primarily for public speaking competitions.
Her contributions to the organization will be recognized on Oct. 6, when MacManus is inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame, during a virtual Zoom ceremony.
The honor goes to those who exemplify the 4-H motto ‘to make the best better’ through citizenship, leadership, career and character, and to those who are champions for Florida’s youth with the 4-H Youth Development Program, according to a University of Florida social media posting.
Florida 4-H has inducted 183 members into the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame, since 2002.
Others receiving the honor this year are Kim Massagee, Vicki Meriwether, Hal Porter and Donald Richard Sellers.
MacManus, who lives in Land O’ Lakes, is delighted by the recognition. “They called me out of the blue. I had no clue,” she said.
Her association with 4-H began when she was 10.
“I think that’s when you were eligible,” she recalled, during a recent interview.
“It was very formative,” she said, noting it helped her to develop the public speaking and organizational skills that would become so important in her professional life.
“You may not know this, but my mother was painfully shy. She was pretty committed to making sure that we didn’t have that problem,” MacManus said.
Her mother became very involved in 4-H, serving as a leader for more than 23 years, and the MacManus kids, and their cousins, were active in 4-H, too.
“It was a natural thing for us to be in,” MacManus said. “Everybody out here was in citrus or cattle or some kind of agriculture. It was a real big part of all my family.
“We loved going to the fair. My sister used to show cows at the fair. I had chickens.
“We’d have exhibits at the fair and give presentations at the fair, and there would competitions. So, I got to know people from all over,” MacManus said.
During eight years of 4-H, MacManus completed 70 projects and received numerous awards, according to a report published decades ago in the former Dade City Banner.
She was twice president of her high school 4-H club. She took projects to district demonstrations on four occasions and won project medals each time.
She served as historian, reporter and president. Plus, she was a district representative and state historian.
But, her activities didn’t stop there.
She was a delegate to the 42nd National 4-H Club Congress in Chicago, and a Florida representative to the National Four-H Conference in Washington D.C.
She gave speeches and made appearances on radio and television programs.
She took on local and state leadership roles, which opened doors to broadening her skills, too, she said.
“I was an officer. You learn about organizational dynamics and collaborative efforts,” she said. On top of that, it was fun.
“I worked at the Florida 4-H camps,” she said, noting that was her job during summers of her college years, to help pay her college expenses.
4-H opens doors to new opportunities
MacManus traveled to the nation’s capital, in an expenses-paid trip, when she was a member of the Florida State University 4-H Club.
The four Florida delegates met Sen. Spessard Holland, Sen. George Smathers, Rep. James A. Haley and Rep. Claude Pepper, according to a report that detailed the trip.
They toured the Capitol Building and visited different offices of government, business and education. Vice President Hubert Humphrey spoke at one of the general assemblies.
They also went on a special tour of the White House and attended a reception hosted by Lady Bird Johnson, the report says.
“That’s where I met LBJ (President Lyndon B. Johnson) and (First Lady) Lady Bird (Johnson),” MacManus recently recalled. “LBJ actually asked me about what 4-H was like, and about Florida.”
The 4-H’ers also received a police escort throughout the week as they visited the National Art Gallery, the National Archives, Arlington National Cemetery, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial and Mount Vernon, according to a recap of the trip.
It was MacManus’ first trip to Washington D.C., but certainly not her last.
MacManus has retired from her university teaching career, but she still shares her knowledge about Florida politics.
She thinks 4-H continues to offer valuable opportunities, with diverse programming that has kept up with the times, and she highly recommends it.
“It (4-H) offers terrific leadership training,” MacManus said.
Published September 23, 2020