Prepared Remarks from Secretary DeVos to the Future Farmers of America (FFA) National Conference and Expo

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Prepared Remarks from Secretary DeVos to the Future Farmers of America (FFA) National Conference and Expo

Indianapolis, IN
October 27, 2017

Thank you, Victoria for that kind introduction. I am so energized to be here with all of you to celebrate your 90th National Convention and Expo!

What a remarkable milestone: nearly a century of bringing Future Farmers of America and guests together to share ideas, compete in events, take part in leadership workshops and network with peers.

I see that we have participants from all across our great country. I want to say a special hello to the students from my home state of Michigan, and also to those from this great hosting state—home to our Vice President, Mike Pence!

In this room, I know we have not only the rising generation of our nation's agricultural leaders, but of our nation's biologists, chemists, lawyers, energy entrepreneurs, and maybe even lawmakers…if you dare!

That's because FFA is not only for tillers of land – you also cultivate ideas that could change the world.

FFA has come a long way in 90 years. When you were founded our nations faced the challenges of feeding a growing population. Now, the challenges you face are different, but no less significant.

Who better to rise to the occasion than all of you? Your human ingenuity is what brings life to the land – and to our country.

You're not inclined to take the safe route, and that is admirable. Don't be afraid to fail.

Thomas Edison is said to have created 1,000 failed light bulbs, but he didn't give up. Henry Ford helped put the world on wheels. But he didn't create the Model T on his first try and he didn't stop creating after his revolutionary invention.

Steve Jobs didn't think the first iPhone was "good enough." He kept innovating and improving on something none of us even knew we wanted or needed, and he did so beyond what any of us could have imagined.

And John Deere. If he had stopped finding better ways, the only place you'd see his name stamped in steel is on a plow being pulled behind a mule.

But of course now that name is stamped on plows that roll gracefully on wheels, complete with leather seats, XM radio, GPS and air-conditioning!

Take inspiration from these visionaries. You all have the potential and the promise of being the innovators and leaders of tomorrow, and of reinforcing your tradition of building communities and strengthening agriculture. In looking out and seeing this sea of blue jackets, I am so hopeful for our nation's future.

I was really impressed with the FFA leaders I met in Washington some months ago. They were articulate, poised, and confident.

They know the possibilities are endless. You all should feel similarly confident about your future because FFA puts you at the center and values your potential.

Your educational experiences with FFA encourage you to develop your academic and technical skills, and importantly, your character, preparing you to succeed in any career you choose to pursue.

President Trump and I share your vision and mission. This Administration believes students need to know about and understand the many options that are possible to pursue because more and more students are seeking something other than a traditional four-year college degree.

Many – I suspect many of you -- are choosing to pursue a rigorous technical education program leading to a well-compensated job in a high-demand field.

FFA also fosters an entrepreneurial mindset. To make your own schedule, set your own goals, and work for yourself in service to others.

We believe that all parents and students need to better understand the wide range of options, and how to connect with them. Options including technical schools, community colleges, and "earn and learn" programs, such as apprenticeships. High-quality, rigorous, relevant career and technical education plays a vital role.

And, we believe that career and technical student organizations, like FFA, are an essential part of a well-rounded educational experience.

Student-led organizations provide unparalleled opportunities to learn other important skills – skills such as teamwork, problem-solving and communication.

If every student had an opportunity to pursue their personal development in the context of an organization aligned with their unique interests – our nation would be stronger as a result.

I'm reminded of the terrific FFA students I met at East Hancock High School in Hancock County, not far from here. I joined them for a football game with their biggest rival, which also happened to be the evening of their annual FFA fundraiser. I had some of the best pulled pork and apple crisp I've had in years – all prepared by the FFA team.

But, even more than the great food, I was struck by their enthusiasm. They were excited about what they were learning, and they were excited about their futures.

All students should have the opportunity to learn in ways that engage and excite them. All students should be able to attend schools that match their individual needs and cultivate their innate curiosities.

That's what I'm focused on at the Department of Education every day – ensuring EVERY student has an equal opportunity to a great education.

Thank you all for letting me be a part of this conference, and I wish you all the best as you pursue the next steps in your education and your life. I look forward to seeing the expo and learning more about all the great things you are doing and experiencing!

Enjoy the conference! Thank you.