“Tell us about your experience at the Iowa State Leadership Conference and about your year as a National FFA Officer.” - Matt Hefti, Iowa FFA Secretary
Life moves very fast, so in order to retain memories and still grow I always tell myself, “No matter what happens, make sure you remember these days, these sights, and these smells…No matter what.” The Iowa State Leadership Conference reinforced my own mantra as FFA members from across the state gathered in Ames. When I walked into the arena of the Hilton Coliseum before the First General Session, my heart swelled with excitement to see over 5,000 FFA members making their way to witness the magic of Iowa’s State Leadership Conference.
The few days I spent in Iowa were incredible. From conversations about state talent performances with Hillary, to dinner with the Vinton-Shellsburg FFA, to jumping back in my seat as the fire spouted from the cannons during Lindsay’s welcome, the entire week was memorable. One of my favorite parts of the week was witnessing the hundreds of members who zipped up their blue corduroy jackets to be a part of Meals from the Heartland and package over 228,000 meals. I was in awe as bag after bag was filled, packaged, and hauled off.
The other moment that will never leave my memory was when the chorus stood to sing “Proud To Be An American.” Hearing FFA members sing this song always makes my skin fill with goose bumps and chokes me up every time. It is one of the most patriotic expressions that our FFA members make as our jacket stands for unity of our country and our industry. If there is one thing that FFA is truly one-hundred percent solid in, it is unity and patriotism.
During the Second General Session, I was given the privilege to address the body of Iowa FFA members for a keynote speech. As they began to introduce me I distinctly remember butterflies flooding my stomach as I was about to step onto a stage and speak in front of the largest crowd I’ve had to opportunity to address thus far. Even though my knees shook and my heart raced, I found that the instant the crowd roared with welcoming enthusiasm, I knew it would be a moment that I’d never forget.
In my speech I spoke about how today is a promise; tomorrow isn’t. What can we do to live our life and not feel as though it zipped by before we had a chance to take it in? Though I have only lived twenty-one short years, I’ve found that if I stop waiting for a countdown, live in the small moments, and let time stand still every once in a while, then I can live each day of my life as if it were the only one I knew was promised to me.
I found that in the beginning of my national officer year, time whizzed by much too quickly. I hardly had time to soak in a memory before I had to focus on something new; so I had to do something to change it. I have found that if I can be self-disciplined enough to follow my own mantra, then life can slow down and I can have a chance to feel gratitude every single day for the blessings I’ve been given.
In the same, as we venture through middle school and high school, some days flash before our eyes. As FFA members we really can live this out by initiating one and not waiting for a countdown to give us the “Go!” Through that we are able to live in the small moments, thus allowing time to stand still long enough to feel gratitude for each moment.
This year as a national officer has been incredible. However, don’t be fooled by the glam and glitz of the job because behind every speech, workshop, and travel comes countless hours of preparation and diligence to keep up on a consistent to-do list.
Every moment has been worth it and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. My five other teammates are wonderful individuals who have helped me grow in ways I could not have imagined prior to this year; we have chemistry on our team that is unlike any team I have ever been on. We all come from very different backgrounds and very different lifestyles and still find that we have an unimaginable amount in common in order to help one another.
My FFA advisor, Mr. Henningfeld, always said “If you surround yourself with the right people, good things happen.” In the same, over 5,000 people from different backgrounds and lifestyles came together at Iowa’s State FFA Leadership Conference to celebrate another year of the Iowa FFA Association. We were able to have positive things happen because we were truly surrounded by like-minded people who could help us grow. Meals for the Heartland, all of the general sessions, and the FFA fun night and barbeque all allowed us to slow down a bit and take in the conference. Just remember that where ever you are, “No matter what happens, make sure you remember those days, those sights, and those smells…No matter what.”
National FFA Central Region Vice President