Jimmy Carter photo

Future Farmers of America Remarks to Representatives of the Organization.

July 21, 1977

Almost every time when I come out to replace Midge Costanza, the audience is always disappointed. This is one group where I might have an advantage, though, because I'm part of you, not only now as President but also throughout my life. The first office I ever held was as secretary of the Plains High School FFA chapter.

I was an isolated and timid country boy, and I began to learn about organizational structure, and I began to learn about competition. I began to learn how to make a speech, and I began to learn how to work with other people. I also learned the value of agriculture, farm families, stability, commitment, idealism, hope, truth, hard work, patriotism, from the FFA.

Ours was a family that didn't have electricity on our farm then, and we lived and worked, as I said in a book I wrote, much more as farmers did 2,000 years ago than as farmers live today.

The Future Farmers of America have presented to farm adults, agricultural leaders, political leaders from cities and farms, new ideas and new concepts of innovation, experimentation, and growth. The FFA has always worked very closely in community problems, always worked very closely with experiment stations. And although my later training was in nuclear physics as a scientist and engineer, I recognize very clearly there is no single entity in our economic structure that's more innovative, much more eager to try new ideas and concepts than the farmers of this country. And it's paid rich dividends.

I learned about politics in the FFA in a good sense. I found even then that many of the battles that we fought during the thirties and forties, in which my father participated, were decided here in Washington. And although before the advent of the rural electrification program my father and our family had been very close to the farm geographically, without traveling much, my daddy, who was the first director of the Central Electric Membership Corporation, on occasion would have to come to Washington in a fight to protect the REA program when Roosevelt was President.

And it expanded the horizons of our family and taught me that there's a strong commitment and responsibility of agricultural leaders and workers to help shape the policies of our Nation not only for our own benefit and advantage, but for the benefit of the world.

My first building project--I had forgotten about it, but in your recent FFA magazine, I noticed my old "ag" teacher said it was a building of a little roughhewn model of the White House. [Laughter] I have to admit that at that time I never thought I'd live here. I was hoping someday I might look at it through the cracks in the fence, but I've come further.

But I think, again, that illustrates that there is no limit on what we can do if we share experiences with one another and recognize the opportunities in the greatest nation on Earth, where background and a lack of experience is no obstacle to further achievement in politics or business or government or in the management of our own affairs.

When I came back home from the Navy in 1953, I continued a commitment that my father had made. And each year when the Plains FFA Chapter chooses its Outstanding Member of the Year, Carter's Warehouse, which is my business, always sponsors the trip to the Kansas City Convention for that star FFA student. And I have to admit that I think because of that, I was made an honorary lifetime member of the FFA. But that kept me tied in with the FFA students at the junior and senior high school level.

I was able to come to Kansas City and speak to your convention, and I was excited and thrilled by the good response of almost 18,000 FFA delegates from around the country.

So, you have one of those precious possessions in your hands--the ancient history of future farmer organizations and the bright hope for the future. And I'm very proud to be part of one of the finest organizations on Earth, that's never lost its pride in what has been and its vision of what can be in the future.

I want to thank you for coming to the White House. You are leaders among tens of thousands of other leaders, and that puts not only a great pleasure and opportunity in your life but also a heavy responsibility on your shoulders. And it's a very reassuring thing for a President to be able to stand here in the Rose Garden, near the White House where every President has lived except George Washington--it was built while he was President--and to see the intelligence and the idealism mirrored in your faces, because I feel that in the future that our country will be even greater than it has been in the past.

I thank you for letting me be part of it.

Note: The President spoke at 10:05 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening remarks, he referred to Midge Costanza, Assistant to the President for Public Liaison.

Jimmy Carter, Future Farmers of America Remarks to Representatives of the Organization. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243317

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