August 6, 2006 - Giving Back

In my more than four decades of covering agricultural organizations, I have been impressed by the quality of leadership of those farm organizations. I think you have heard me express though, on several occasions, my concern about developing new leadership when the current, mature leadership retires.

Well, I think we are doing that because there are many states that have agricultural leadership programs. My state of Illinois is one of them and I have been a member of the Board of Directors of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation since its beginning nearly 25 years ago. It is a program that selects thirty participants to be involved in a two-year course of learning about the entire world of business and policy and developing communication skills to become articulate spokespersons for agriculture.

This past week, our current Illinois class graduated. The Chairman of our Board is John Huston....some of you may remember John when he served as President of the National Livestock and Meat Board. I call him the “Billy Graham of Agriculture” because of his emotional oratorical skills. John delivered a stirring commencement address to the graduates, talking about “balance in life and the need to give back.”

Paraphrasing some of what John said.....he pointed out you need to have a balance between commitment to family, community, your business and your profession, and to keep all that in balance is a daily challenge. But at the same time, he pointed out the importance of “giving back”, because in the lives of all of us, at some time or another, as a young person in 4-H or FFA, or a young person in school, there was an adult there who “gave back” and had an influence on our lives.

He challenged the members of the graduating class to find the time to become involved in leadership on an individual local basis, through service on a hospital, county, school or church board, as well as involvement in state and national government and agricultural organizations.
John said you never know when you touch the life of someone in a meaningful way. That reminded me of a letter I received from a young lady who was an FFA member in Wisconsin when I addressed that State FFA Convention nearly ten years ago. She wrote to me a couple of years ago and said “Mr. Samuelson, I was in the audience that day and because of something you said in your address to the FFA, it changed the direction of my life, and I credit you with leading me to the profession I have selected that is so satisfying in leading agriculture today.”

You never know when your leadership will make a difference in the life of an individual or an organization. So prepare yourself to take the torch of leadership when it is passed on to you. It is your time to “give back”.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.