The Friday Footnote last week looked at the relationship that Presidents of the United States had with the FFA organization. As with any historical research, there is always more information that can be discovered. Thanks to several agricultural education professionals we have some additional information to add to the topic.
President Eisenhower spoke to the 26th Convention in 1953 (see Table 1). The National FFA President at that convention was Jimmy Dillon from Louisiana. Cade LeJeune from Louisiana State University reports that Jimmy Dillon is still alive and living Baton Rouge, LA. An interview with FFA President Dillon can be found at Digging Deeper with Jimmy Dillon - YouTube
The list of Presidents who spoke at National FFA Conventions was missing one important entry. In addition to speaking when he was Vice President, George H.W. Bush also spoke at National FFA Convention when he was President in the fall of 1991. He has been added to Table 1.
Al Jones, an agricultural teacher in North Carolina wrote:
George H.W. Bush also spoke at the '91 convention. I was a delegate from NC that year, and as I recall he spoke during one of the delegate sessions. This was my first airline flight, first convention, and first time being in the same room with the President of the United States. I was a LONG way from Richlands, NC!
Marty Campbell from Pendleton School District (Oregon) shared his recollection of President Bush speaking to the 1991 Convention. At that time, he was a senior in high school participating in the FFA Talent program. Fortunately, he came out unscathed after meeting U.S Secret Service agents on the President’s detail. Here is what Marty shared:
I was a senior in high school, and I was part of the talent program. I had been in rehearsal and was waiting on the convention center floor for my advisor, watching the band rehearse, as it was a day or two before the convention was to begin. I knew President Bush was coming to speak, so when the Secret Service gathered behind me and began discussing their security sweep of the building (even going so far as remove outlet covers to check for security risks), it sparked my interest. I turned to listen in while still facing forward. Apparently, it was obvious that my interest was more in the Secret Service conversation than in the band rehearsal, and one of their number came and sternly spoke to me. "Excuse me," he said. "What is your business here?" I told him I was waiting on my advisor. He told me to wait elsewhere or risk being arrested. Of course, I was a young lad of seventeen, and that was enough to scare me off.
A few days later, metal detectors were set up inside the convention center, and a few "older-looking students" in FFA jackets had taken to the entryway to let us in. During that session, President George H.W. Bush spoke to us, and mentioned that Arnold Schwarzenegger had been enlisted in his reelection campaign, shooting for "Term 2. For me, that was a great experience.
As the pictures below show, the National FFA recognized President Bush with the Outstanding American Award after his speech.
Presidents of the United States and National FFA Conventions
Dwight D. Eisenhower
1st President to speak at the convention.
Harry S. Truman
Spoke at the 1957 convention after leaving office in January.
Richard M. Nixon
Candidate Nixon spoke at convention just prior to the November 1968 election.
Gerald R. Ford
Speech broadcast live on network television.
Candidate Carter spoke at convention one year before being elected President.
Only former FFA member ever elected President.
George H.W. Bush
Vice President Bush spoke at convention in 1987, one year before being elected President.
George H.W. Bush
President Bush spoke to the convention in 1991.
Donald J. Trump
First sitting President to speak to convention since President Bush in 1991.
Michael Brammer, from the Pennsylvania FFA reports that the 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush spoke to the 76th Pennsylvania FFA State Convention on June 14, 2005. To our knowledge, this may be the only time a President of the United States spoke to a State FFA Convention. If this is incorrect, please share any information you may have.
Thank you to the following individuals for adding more information to this topic.
- Marty Campbell, Pendleton School District (Oregon)
- Michael Brammer, Pennsylvania FFA
- Cade LeJeune, Louisiana State University
- Al Jones, Richlands High School (NC)
This Friday Footnote Follow-up was compiled by Jim Connors with a slight assist from Gary Moore.