By Rheba Howard
Picture this: a dark arena with a brightly lit stage. FFA members – 16,000 of them – in corduroy national blue and corn gold cheering at the top of their lungs. Six figures stand on the stage linking arms, smiles and tears light up their faces. A loud voice rips through the air, “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your 2012-2013 National FFA Officers!” The arena goes wild! Streamers explode from the stage. Heart-pumping music blares. FFA members, advisors and guests stand on their feet, cheering and hugging. And in the midst of it all, on the floor center to the stage, is a small section of people. In front is a little old man in a faded blue jacket. Reflected in his eyes are memories of a similar scene more than 70 years ago. Surrounding him is a group of revelers cheering and clapping, one as loud as the next. They share the same look in their eyes of conventions past – one, five, 15 or 71 years ago.
This group of incredible individuals is the past national FFA officers. Throughout the history of FFA – since 1928 – there have been 506 national officers who for one year of their life dedicated themselves to being the public face and the ambassadors of the FFA organization. These officers have seen a world war, the end of segregation, women allowed into FFA, the attack on the Twin Towers, and an ever-changing and evolving industry of agriculture. Throughout the years, teams and individuals have reunited and revisited the convention and expo, volunteering their time judging, being a part of nominating committees, attending the expo as a sponsor, being on the sponsors’ board or individual giving council or just coming to the convention and expo to relive the excitement. This year more than 60 past national FFA officers attended the convention and expo, including the oldest living national FFA president from 1940-41, DH Prichard.
DH is 91 years old; his son Dr. David Prichard came with him all the way from Mississippi. At the past national FFA officer reception on Friday night of the convention and expo, FFA staff, collegiate hosts, guests, and other past national officers sat around listening to his stories of old. His favorite story to tell is how he met his wife of 68 years.
Wearing his FFA jacket from 1940 along with his official FFA tie, Prichard was flocked by FFA members everywhere asking for pictures and to sign their convention and expo booklet. Right before the announcement of the new national officer team, past national FFA officers were called to the main stage to be recognized. Prichard walked slowly onto the stage waving and blowing kisses to the roaring crowd. One can almost imagine a convention 71 years ago in Kansas City, Mo., where he first put on that blue jacket, waving to the group of young men, the future of agriculture.
Toward the end of the session, everyone looked on stage cheering and welcoming the new national officer team. No one noticed the six individuals in white shirts and FFA ties. After a year of service and having dismissed their corduroy jackets, they join the ranks of the retired and past national officers. We at the National FFA Foundation thank them for their year of dedication and look forward to working with them for many more years to come.