What traits do you value in people holding leadership positions in your community, at the state level or in Congress?
Along with having experience and the ability to effectively work with others, you may want them, as do I, to be trustworthy, have integrity, be respectful and show compassion.
These traits really are basic to our humanity, to our day-to-day living. For the good of all, it’s important to exemplify these personal behaviors. And if there ever was a time these positive traits and values of leadership and life needed reiteration, it is now.
Enter Minnesota FFA, offering a refresher course on civility and personal responsibility.
After an unsettling experience in October at the National FFA Convention, where some members were disrespectful and voiced inappropriate chants during meetings, Minnesota FFA leadership decided they couldn’t let this behavior slide. Not in a room full of youth in their formative years wearing FFA’s blue jackets, which epitomize the highest of personal and ethical standards.
Following the convention, state FFA members, leadership and alumni made the decision to be proactive, acknowledge the disrespectful behavior and move forward by emphasizing and developing the positive characteristics of being a FFA member and future leader.
That’s how Cultivate the Difference came to be. ‘Cultivate’ is a new Minnesota FFA leadership training series that is being shared in chapters across the state; read about it at bit.ly/ffacultivate. Through video and supporting resources, the series is engaging FFA youth and adults in discussion and action to develop key life and leadership principles. They include respect, compassion, trust, confidence and professionalism.
What a befitting word, “cultivate.” It conjures images of agriculture as well as the word’s other meanings, such as “nurture” and “encourage.” We learn our values at a young age: first by example from our parents, and later throughout life from others we choose to emulate. Personal values are not innate. And “difference” — I interpret that as holding true to FFA’s code of ethics, even when others are not, to make a positive difference in the lives of others; to be respectful, courteous, honest and fair; to communicate in an appropriate, positive manner; and to appreciate and promote diversity.
Since late November, FFA student and adult leaders have been developing videos and resource materials that help define each value and how to incorporate them into everyday life. While the main audience is FFA members, FFA supporters—adults and students—are welcome to participate, to tap into learning and to share perspective and expertise. You can view the first video, which talks about respect, at bit.ly/ffacultivatevideo.
As I watched the “respect” video, I thought the introduction was solid, as it first noted how easy it is to be most respectful of those who think, look and live like us. Yet, we must learn to understand the value of everyone around us, including those who are not like us. And following that comes respect.
“Understanding without action is empty,” says FFA state officer Anna Ridenour. “Respect requires action.”
Wise words. Our silence, our inaction implies agreement.
I applaud these young people for taking on this major responsibility to help educate their peers on the basics of life. Kudos to the adults who are supporting these mature young leaders.
I appreciate the opportunity to continue to learn, too. I encourage you to check in every month to watch the latest video and see how the series is progressing at bit.ly/mnffavideos.