COLUMBUS — Thousands of FFA members and guests made their way to Columbus for the 88th Annual Ohio FFA Convention, May 5 and 6, and around 1,000 FFA members crossed the stage in recognition of their hard work throughout the year.
Throughout the two-day convention, a theme of leadership and making an impact was heard from various speakers, encouraging FFA members to live life to fullest and make a difference.
See more photos from the Ohio FFA Convention in this photo gallery.
“The most successful young people I have met have almost always come out of an FFA program,” said Dave Roever, keynote speaker. “FFA is one of the greatest youth programs.”
During the second general session of the Ohio FFA convention, May 5, Vietnam War veteran Dave Roever spoke to 6,000 FFA members and guests about courage and living life. Roever was drafted during the height of the Vietnam War, joining the Navy as a river boat gunner in the Brown Water Black Beret.
He can remember kissing his wife goodbye the day he was called off to war. She had asked him, “Are you coming back?” To which he replied, “I’ll be back without a scar.” Little did he know that he wouldn’t come back the same.
Just eight months into his tour, July 26, 1969, Roever drew back a white phosphorus hand grenade, planning to throw it at the enemy. A sniper, under the cover of brush, shot and missed his face by inches, striking the grenade by his right ear.
Life or death
Roever suffered third degree burns to 50 percent of his body. Only a small portion of the left side of his face remained intact. When the search and rescue team found Roever, his body was still on fire, and they assumed him dead. When they got him back to base, they moved him to a unit usually reserved for soldiers not expected to make it.
Thirteen soldiers lay in intensive care unit beds, and Roever watched as the wives of those men came in with disgust and embarrassment over their injuries. All Roever could think about was his wife, and that he couldn’t bare her to see him like this. Roever talked of a dark time when he tried to end his own life. He made up his mind to pull out what he thought was his breathing tube.
“I pulled my tube out … and then I got hungry,” he said. “I pulled the wrong tube.” When Roever’s wife finally came in to see him, all she could do was kiss his face and hold his hand. It was then that Roever knew it was all going to be all right and “life is worth living.”
Of the 13 men lying in that infirmary, Roever was the only one to survive. Since leaving the military, Roever has spoke to more than 7 million young men and women about the importance of living life to the fullest. “We take things lightly,” said Rover, acknowledging the youth and the decisions they make everyday to drink and drive or text and drive. “Don’t do it,” he said.
During the third general session of the Ohio FFA convention, May 6, author and speaker Jones Loflin shared four thoughts on how to boost your impact. The first step is determining where you are going to make an impact. “What makes you passionate? What gets you excited?” Loflin asked the FFA members.
Whether it’s a proficiency area or career development event, if you are excited and passionate about that subject, “that’s most likely where you will continue to make an impact,” he said.
The second key to making an impact, is “deciding where you are willing to fail.” As an author of several books, Loflin talked of one that didn’t quite make the mark. His book, Prime Rib or Potted Meat “was a flop,” he said. “I tried to please too many groups.” But understanding failure is critical in making an impact, he said.
Having a strong foundation to build upon is also critical to your success. “Everyone has enemies,” said Loflin. From adversity, to people saying “you can’t do that,” Loflin asks, “what are you going to build your foundation on to weather the storm?”
The final key to making an impact, is having focus and a sense of urgency to accomplish the goal. “What is it that you want to do now that you may never get to do again?” asked Loflin.
As a leader of his parliamentary procedure team in high school, Loflin had big dreams “to win it all.” He was the presiding officer and took his team all the way to the state finals.
The team took second place, and when Loflin looked over the judges comments, he felt his heart sink as he read, “your president is weak.” If he would have dedicated a little more time to practicing, maybe they could have taken first. “I didn’t have the opportunity to lead another group until I became a teacher and FFA adviser,” said Loflin.
Make it happen
So he asks the group again, “What is your urgency? If you don’t focus on it now, how are you going to make an impact?” Those sentiments of making an impact and leadership were carried on in Ohio FFA President Matthew Klopfenstein’s retiring address during the final session of the convention.
“We think if we are going to be somebody, we need a title,” said Klopfenstein. “Awards do not make us valuable. Our character, our personalities make us valuable.” He recalled a chapter visit where one of the FFA members asked him, “How can I be a leader?”
The question — one that Klopfenstein is still trying to answer — resonated with him because, “she was asking about how she could lead. Not about getting a title (or award), but making a difference.”
“Success always comes with a side of failure,” said Klopfenstein. But 837 FFA members proved they could overcome failure and achieve the highest degree possible on a state level. Klopfenstein concluded his address by asking FFA members, “Can we lead strong?”
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