Each of the six officers delivers a speech, their “retiring address” at the convention. It’s always inspirational and speaks directly to the fifteen thousand or so kids in the audience at each session. Seth began his speech by telling the students about his first public speaking task, giving oral reasons on a class of horses to a single adult judge. He said he delivered it through sobs, his tears soaking the notes he held. I remember it well. He was 9 years old, all the other kids were done and I begged him to come out from behind the county fair bleachers and talk to the judge. He finally did it, an agonizing experience; now look at him! From a shy boy clinging to his Mom, to a televised speech in front of thousands, he shows rural kids what they can achieve.
He told them he had always been the “short, skinny kid” and how he had struggled to read in first grade. He told them how he had received the “most improved reader” award at the end of the school year, not because he was a good reader, but because he was so horrible to begin with.
He talked of driving to school on a winter morning in Idaho and entering the warm, moist greenhouse filled with Christmas poinsettias. They were tended by the ag students and fluorished in a carefully constructed environment. Seth told the kids (and adults, we were listening too) to create their own greenhouse. Find those people that lift them up, participate in those activities that help them grow. They can control the world they live in, air temperature, soil type, even fertilizer, as they create their greenhouse. Say “no” to those people and activities that drag them down. Collect inspiring quotes, listen to positive songs, and make the best of this “one wild and magnificent life.”
The greenhouse image is a powerful concept, easy to grasp, easy to remember. It’s exciting to think how some of those thousands of kids will put his words into action.
After his speech, a freshman FFA member accompanied his Ag advisor to the front of the stadium to meet Seth. The boy reminded me of how Seth looked at 14, his FFA jacket too big, the sleeves hanging down over his hands. His advisor told Seth that this boy and he had something in common. “Go ahead and tell him,” he urged the boy.
The boy hesitated, finally managing to say, “I also got most improved reader. ”
|Callie and Anna introducing Seth (photo by Danielle Sanok)|
|Backdrop to his speech|