“Leadership is thinking ahead, planning for the future, exhausting all possibilities, envisioning problems and dreaming up solutions to them. Leadership draws its inspiration from future projects, not past accomplishments.” – Robert H. Schuller
For years, this quote has hung above Dr. Steve Brown’s desk and guided his philosophy and approach while acting as the National FFA Advisor and Board Chair. Now after nearly 50 years of involvement in the National FFA Organization, Dr. Brown has retired from his role at the U.S. Department of Education.
“I have shared many times that I am a common person with uncommon responsibilities,” Brown says. “Some of my fondest memories in life were either while wearing a blue jacket, working in the classroom or reciting the phrase, ‘Here by the owl.’ ”
As the National FFA Advisor, Brown had the opportunity to visit every state and connect with members and advisors around the world, including the 40th National Convention of the Future Farmers of South Korea. During his tenure, membership grew by 176,000 students and more than 1,100 FFA chapters, and the future of agricultural education continued to grow and develop.
“It has always been an inspiration to be around FFA members and to see their energy and willingness to try new things,” Brown says. “Their enthusiasm is contagious and refreshing, and will be one of the greatest things I’ll miss during retirement.”
Enthusiasm and a passion for service were some of the first characteristics Brown developed as an FFA member. Growing up in rural Missouri with 36 students in his graduating class, Brown remembers the significant impact volunteerism can have on a community because of his chapter advisor.
“One of our local chapter activities was to give a free day of labor to all the businesses in our small town to say thank you for their support,” Brown remembers. “We were taught that sometimes it is more important to give rather than ask for a donation.”
Brown would take this lesson with him for decades after he wore his blue corduroy jacket for the final time. Now, as he prepares to recite the words of the opening ceremony for the final time, Brown has one final piece of advice to FFA members across the country.
“Change will continue. Be willing to embrace change,” Brown says. “Continue to discover your purpose in life, never underestimate your potential, pursue your passions and be persistent.”