Jimmy Carter photo

Future Farmers of America Remarks to the Organization's State Presidents.

July 19, 1979

MARK SANDBORN. 1 Mr. President, this morning we have gathered at your beautiful home as members of the Future Farmers of America; as farmers and agriculturalists and as friends, but above all, today we come as Americans.

1 National president, Future Farmers of America.

We are so appreciative of your generous hospitality in the face of the many challenges and responsibilities that you have facing you to take time to meet with those people that you mean so much to.

All Americans feel a strong tie to you, but we feel a special tie because of your association with our organization. It is for that reason that we would like to present you with a plaque that we wanted to make special by putting on it and including in it something of your past that is a big part of our present and a part of all Americans' futures. You see, Mr. President, you are admired, respected, and loved wherever corn is grown and future farmers meet. And so, today, on behalf of the Future Farmers of America, I present you with this plaque with the secretary's station marker, a part from the opening ceremony, and the words from our organization, which read, "Congratulations, Jimmy Carter, from secretary of Plains, Georgia FFA Chapter, to the President of the United States. On behalf of the national FFA organization, we thank you for your outstanding leadership, States Presidents Conference, July 19, 1979." And we say in the simplest and most sincere way that we can, Mr. President, thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. The first public words that I ever said in a position of responsibility was the secretary stationed by the ear of corn, your duties there, "I keep an accurate record of all meetings and correspond with other secretaries wherever corn is grown and future farmers meet."

Mark, I want to thank you and the FFA leaders here and FFA members, more than half million, all across the country for this recognition and this honor. I hope that there are other lowly secretaries around the Nation who will ultimately be President of the United States. I can vouch for the fact that it's good preparation for the highest elective office in our Nation.

FFA members mean a lot to me personally, and your organization means a lot to our country now, in the past, and in the future. The first organization that I belonged to was a Baptist church; the second organization was the FFA. And both have and do mean a lot to me.

It's no secret around the Nation that the FFA organization, the Future Farmers of America, is one of my favorite organizations. I have spoken to local chapters; I've spoken to State groups; I've spoken to the national convention, as you well know. It's been an integral part of my life.

I look forward each year to having the time to meet with the State officers who are assembled here at the White House to show the national importance of FFA, and to show your close ties with the incumbent President, no matter what background that particular President might have.

You adopted a bold theme for this year: "FFA Preparing For Progress." Progress does not just happen. Real progress comes only as a result of discipline, planning, and a lot of hard work. Our Nation faces difficult challenges in the years ahead. I described some of those challenges, some of those problems, some of those opportunities in my address to the Nation last Sunday evening. Your Government, which is distrusted by some, which is supported by almost all, is an important element in your lives, in the lives of all Americans, obviously in the lives of farmers.

I'm now involved in an intense effort to review my own role as President and the makeup, the constitution of my Government, our relationship to the Congress, to the Governors, local officials, to officials who are not in government, and to the individual citizens of our Nation, to strengthen these crucial ties between government and people. I'll make the tough decisions that are necessary for improvements, and ! know that you as leaders understand that quite often the decisions of a leader are not easy.

I want you to listen to me very closely. I want to talk directly to you.

Two of the most important questions in the future of this Nation, in the future of people throughout the world, are fuel and food, for the remainder of this century, and into the next century as well.

Our Nation has been generously endowed by God with tremendous reserve supplies of these precious natural resources; fuel, perhaps more than any other country on Earth, and the most bountiful gift of productive land for the production of food on which our own Nation and many nations throughout the world now depend, and will depend even more heavily in the future.

How to provide more food for a growing world population while we use less energy is a very difficult task. Our Nation must be well fed, and we must have an increasing quantity of food to export to others. How we do both these things while consuming less energy is the challenge. You, the present and future leaders of the agricultural community, must assess this basic, inherent conflict and resolve it, study agricultural practices, make changes, create new techniques and new concepts when necessary. This is what is meant by progress, and, in short, you will be called upon to transform American agriculture in the years ahead.

I have every confidence that you young men and women, the leaders of the Future Farmers of America, can take up this gauntlet and can meet this new day both with imagination, with strength, with confidence, and with vigor.

Now I would like to ask you all together for a unique call from the President to you, one tailored especially for FFA. Since everyone knows that FFA is important to me, I today ask you to link your hands and your hearts with me as President in the energy battle that we now face. I ask you to take the lead among all other youth groups in the United States, in our war for energy security. To that end, in consultation with your own leaders, I set before you this extraordinary challenge.

I'm asking every FFA chapter in this country to get involved in this basic question of energy conservation and production tied intimately with that of food, in conserving energy and in finding new ways to use it more efficiently. It has to come from you. I cannot do it for you. I can't go into every FFA chapter in the Nation and create the leadership and the inspiration and the drive and the determination and the planning and the commitment and, sometimes, the courage that will be required to make this leadership felt, not only in your own organization but among others which involve young leaders of our country. But I will give recognition as a kind of constant symbol of my participation to the one FFA chapter in the Nation chosen by you and your leaders who does the most outstanding job in carrying out this response to the energy crisis.

Are you willing to accept the challenge? [Applause] Very good.

I'm going to depend upon the FFA to take the lead in energy conservation, and I'm going to depend upon you to pay the personal prices in your own lives necessary to guarantee the freedom of this Nation through restoring our energy security. I know you will do this, and it's a solemn commitment between me and you.

A quality future of our lives is built on a strong today. We've got some weaknesses in our country that I tried to outline as best I could Sunday evening. Many things change rapidly in our world, and these changes upset people. New energy facts are hard to accept.

For the first time, Americans have had to recognize the fact that there are limits, that we don't have the right anymore to squander the precious fuel reserves which our Nation possesses. We've got to husband those and to conserve those and to be good stewards over what we have been given. This is what comprises the proper attitude of an American citizen, to assess problems, to face them frankly, to let the truth be known, to search our own lives, our own hearts, our own influence, and say, "What can I do to make my life purer, better, stronger, more admirable, and to let my life be felt meaningfully in the future of a nation which has been so good to me?"

So many changes take place; many things don't change. The fundamentals don't change—love within a family, honesty, friendship among people, a desire for peace, a respect for one another, the beauty of nature, and the genuine patriotism based on confidence in our country. As these unchangeable values become deeply engrained in our lives today, the future obviously grows even brighter.

On my recent trip to Japan, I met the Emperor of Japan and all his family. I learned that at the beginning of each year, as a symbol, the Emperor of Japan plants a tiny rice seedling—the nation watches this simple act—as a symbol of abundance and hope and confidence for the year ahead. You young people who live so close to the earth or whose families or friends live so close to the earth are a similar symbol of abundance and hope for me.

Plant your lives carefully in a foundation based on principles which do not change. Work hard. Love deeply. Commit your lives faithfully, let your lives bloom and constantly grow, no matter how many years you might spend on Earth. With these kinds of personal traits and beliefs in your lives, you become a precious possession.

Our Nation desperately needs you, and I'm sure that our Nation will not be disappointed in you.

Thank you very much.

MR. SANDBORN. Mr. President, before you stands a group that eagerly accepts constructive challenge. You asked us to join our hands and our hearts in addressing the problem of the energy that you mentioned. We want you to know that we have already joined our hands and hearts in accepting your guidance and direction in doing whatever we can as future farmers.

We will directly accept your challenge in two ways: first, by addressing the challenge you presented and encouraging chapters across the United States to participate actively in energy conservation; but secondly, we pledge to you that we will continue to train and develop the kind of young people with leadership, citizenship, skills, and abilities that have made you great as President of the United States and have produced such a great leader like yourself.

Mr. President, we gladly accept your challenge.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:20 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Future Farmers of America Remarks to the Organization's State Presidents. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249536

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