FFA...For the Common Good

FFA…FOR THE COMMON GOOD - February 15, 2013

State Representative David Perryman

I am not sure when my Dad grew up.  I’m pretty sure that it was sometime between his sixteenth birthday and when he was discharged from the U.S. Navy.  Life in the 1940’s matured many young Americans...quickly.

My Dad was no exception.  Rural life in 1940 was hard.  His family had only recently acquired their own land, having been tenant farmers in the Arkansas River bottoms for several decades.  President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs had helped, but droughts and small harvests kept the future bleak.

Dad was in high school and enrolled in vocational agriculture.  Within months, a series of events rocked his already uncertain world.  His grandfather died, Pearl Harbor was attacked, and his mother passed away unexpectedly.  His father had four younger kids to care for.  Through this turmoil, Dad’s future suddenly became quite clear.  He dropped out of high school, enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served his country admirably in the South Pacific until the Japanese surrender.

Discharged with the promise of the G.I. Bill, and the help of his high school vo-ag teacher, my father fulfilled the requirements for the equivalency of a high school diploma and enrolled in college majoring in agriculture education.

After accelerated studies, Dad, one of a motley group of farm boys, who had been quickly transformed by military service, graduated from Oklahoma A & M and descended upon high schools across the state bringing new principles of agriculture, animal husbandry, conservation, and ag-mechanics.  They taught the economics of agri-business and the virtues of cooperative attitudes.

Equally important, they assumed the role of advisor in a relatively new organization named the Future Farmers of America.  They and other vocational agriculture instructors served their students and their communities well.  Often in the absence of veterinarians, they filled that void.

Their goal was to improve the quality of life in rural Oklahoma.  They did that through agriculture education and the FFA.  This is FFA week and I would like to honor an organization that made a difference in my life and has made a difference in hundreds of communities and in the lives of thousands of young men and women across our nation.

FFA provided me with speaking opportunities.  In high school, I began an agribusiness and owned livestock.  I was awarded the State Farmer Degree and provided the opportunity to be a leader.  From my agricultural roots, I learned about community and cooperation; about accountability and overcoming adversity.  Those are the kind of lessons that become engrained in a person’s very being.  Those are the kind of lessons that are taught daily through the Future Farmers of America.

For years, I have maintained membership in the National FFA Alumni Organization because the FFA continues to promote those qualities of citizenship, volunteerism, and patriotism that make rural America special.  It continues to teach the value of the others and the principles of bettering the human condition.

The FFA has changed to meet the needs of agriculture through the years, but the fundamentals have remained constant.  It has always been and will always continue to be a place to learn about soil and water conservation, about farming and livestock production, about public speaking and leadership.

FFA provides an educational opportunity for the students of rural Oklahoma and America that is not found in any other classroom.

The first Blue corduroy jacket with the Gold FFA emblem on the back was worn in 1933 and has endured through the years with very little change.  My FFA jacket still hangs in my closet.  While it no longer fits, my memories of wearing it with pride are special and somewhat magical.  I had an opportunity to meet with the members of the Oklahoma State FFA Organization last week at the Capitol and as I listened to them speak and we discussed what the organization has meant to all of us, I am firmly convinced that the goal of the organization is as pure today as it was when it was first conceived.

During opening ceremonies of each meeting, all members recite the purpose of their organization, "To practice brotherhood, honor agricultural opportunities and responsibilities, and develop those qualities of leadership which an FFA member should possess."

I would like to encourage the citizens of District 56 and the state of Oklahoma to pay tribute to a strong organization which contributes to a practical education for our young people, makes our communities better places in which to live, and works to build a better economy for the entire state.

Thanks for reading this installment of the COMMON GOOD and thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Representative.  I want to know what is on your mind and your thoughts on improving the quality of life in District 56.  Please email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or call at 405-557-7401 or 405-222-3600 or toll free at 1-800-522-8502.