I’m in Indianapolis to speak to the national convention of the FFA. Some 50,000 FFA members have converged on the city for competition, recognition, celebration and leadership development.
I served as national president of this organization in 1978-79. For most, this seems like ancient history, but for me the experience impacts my life every day.
My formal education, including my years at The Ohio State University, was important. But the single biggest influence on my current career and whatever success I’ve enjoyed in life I attribute to being a member of FFA.
“Back then” it was Future Farmers of America, but today with so many student members enrolled in agribusiness related areas, it isn’t just about, or even primarily about, becoming a farmer. Hence the name change to FFA. Today, FFA is about preparing for a career in agriculture and the spectrum of diverse opportunities the industry provides.
I have the highest regard for youth organizations of every kind, but even admitting my extreme bias, I believe FFA to be the greatest developer of young people in the U.S. Public speaking, leadership and parliamentary procedure are just some of the life-skills that FFA develops.
You won’t find a more polite group of young people anywhere. They are respectful, ready and anxious to learn, competitive in the best sense of the word and virtuous. They are by and large a group with solid values and old-fashioned but not naive patriotism. There are a few minor exceptions as you’d expect in any group this large, but I assure you that an hour at an FFA national convention would convince you that America’s future is indeed bright if these students are in line to lead the way. Just to be in the same town with them is inspiring, and that isn’t hyperbole.
The FFA motto is: Learning to do. Doing to learn. Earning to live. Living to serve.
I’m looking forward to addressing the group. It is great to be back after so many years. But the reason I wrote this post is to encourage you. The theme of the convetion is Blue Coats, Bright Futures (the FFA jacket being blue and gold). You know what? The convention theme goes beyond FFA members to our future as a nation. Today’s FFA members will help ensure a bright future not just for themselves, but for all of use who benefit from what they’ve learned.
God bless America, and God bless FFA.