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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



It’s been just over twenty-five years since I stepped foot into the convention hall, and even though the venue is Hilton Coliseum and not Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium, the memories of those days came flashing back over me in a tidal wave of blue and gold mixed with the salty tears of those days now lost to time. I stood there at the foot of the stage, remembering the pounding in my chest that almost leaped through that crisp white shirt, synched up tie and corduroy blue jacket. I closed my eyes as a new group of young people practiced opening ceremonies and listened intently to the gavel knock against the oak top of the podium and went back in time to my own time as a state officer standing amongst three thousand young people waiting to recite my part of the ceremony.

You would think that in the time I have been away from the FFA organization that my allegiance to the blue and gold would have waned. It isn’t always easy being a past state officer, or as we used to cheerfully refer to ourselves as “has beens”, mostly because for four or five years you ate, slept and drank FFA and then you kind of wandered off into the sunset and the real world where who you were wasn’t nearly as impressive to people as who you were at that moment. That unfounded resentment boiled around inside of me a while, because I wanted that feeling back. The feeling that I had when I was looking through old photos or connected with the friends I had made as a part of FFA.

I thought long and hard before I jumped back into being a part of what is the largest and best student run organization in the world. I certainly wasn’t at a point in my life where I felt that going back to college and getting my teaching degree was practical or even realistic, but there was something that kept bringing me back in and making me want to be a part of something bigger than myself.

Through the local Alumni organization I’ve found that sense of home again. The ability to reconnect with old friends and to take the time to put forth the knowledge and wisdom that the years grew into me, has brought me back into the fold and created that chest beating excitement that I once felt. To see the look in a young person’s face when you have taken the time to pass along your knowledge and to know that you have made an impact on their FFA career is one of the great benefits to staying involved.

Because of the impact my local FFA Alumni Affiliate has had on our chapter, I was invited to speak to the Iowa Alumni Conference back in early February. That simple process of sharing of ideas and new traditions that the Alumni have helped to build in our community set forth a snowball that has been shared across the country by the National Alumni officers that were in attendance. An hour after my presentation I was elected to serve on the Iowa Alumni board which is not only a great honor but also something I feel extremely dedicated to.

Early this week, over three thousand young people from across this state joined together in Ames, to share, learn, compete and start making new memories. It has truly been an honor being a small part of that gathering. There were new friends made and old friends reconnected with through hearty handshakes and more than a few tear filled hugs. It brings that often used phrase of “Forever Blue” to life. As my year moves forward I know it will be filled full of many new challenges and I am looking forward to every moment of this amazing ride.

Those of you in Earlham and the West Central Valley areas can be a part of that excitement as well. Both FFA programs have new, outstanding and excited Alumni Affiliates and would welcome you as a member, regardless if you ever wore a blue jacket or always wanted to. And for you WCV kids that go out into the world and happen to stumble onto a Freshman Jacket Ceremony or see one of your students win a scholarship that you helped create, know that it all started a quarter-century ago standing next to the stage basked in the harsh glare of a spotlight as that gavel gave three short taps and the convention hall came to order.

See you next week. Remember, we’re all in this together.