History of the Ambassadors
Development of the Idea
One of the significant realizations that is gained from attending State FFA Conventions and 4-H Roundups is that there is a significant number of young men and women that have developed the art of public speaking to a high degree. And most of the public speaking deals with agriculture and the opportunities afforded to both rural and urban youth.
It was my great pleasure to gain this realization while attending Texas 4-H Roundups and Texas FFA Conventions in the early 1970s. Not only were youth involved in public speaking contests by they also spoke eloquently while seeking area and state officer positions.
While serving as the Assistant Dean for Academic Programs in the College of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources at Texas Tech University, it was apparent that a significant percentage of these same youth would attend college to pursue a degree. In too many cases, these people had little or no opportunity to maintain or improve their public speaking skills.
After considerable thought and discussion with fellow faculty members, it became apparent that these young people needed an opportunity to preserve and improve their skills. The result of these discussions was to develop opportunities for them to continue to develop and improve these skills. These could come from opportunities to speak on behalf of agriculture and youth to various organizations.
The outgrowth was an idea to develop a cadre of young men and women, i.e., former state 4-H and FFA officers, who could fulfill this role. Audiences could consist of civic clubs, professional associations, High School assemblies, FFA and 4-H organizations, and similar groups.
Actions Taken to Make it a Reality
While returning from a meeting of the American Society of Agronomy in the summer of 1974, it was my good fortune to be riding with Anson and Gloria Bertrand. Anson was at that time the Dean of Agriculture at Texas Tech University.
The need for public speaking opportunities for 4-H and FFA youth was discussed. From this, the idea of an Ambassadors for Agriculture organization became reality. Dean Bertrand’s response to such a group was very positive. His words were short and to the point - "Let’s do it.”
Thoughts on the program were to invite former FFA and 4-H state officers to participate in a planning session. Out of this came suggestions that these students would be invited to form the first core of the Ambassadors for Agriculture. Initially, membership in the Ambassadors would be restricted to State 4-H and FFA Officers. No “tryouts” would need to be conducted because the skills of the young people were well-known. Those invited to become an Ambassador were excited and anxious to get started.
A brochure was developed with pictures, background, and speech topics for each Ambassador. This brochure was distributed to civic groups and professional organizations in the Lubbock area. South Plains area FFA Advisors, County 4-H Agents and, insofar as possible, high school principles were informed of the organization. They were invited to use an Ambassador as a speaker at various school organization functions.
The first Ambassadors were ready in the fall of 1975. Response was excellent. Requests mounted throughout the year. In the spring of 1976, numerous invitations were received to speak at 4-H and FFA banquets and High School assemblies. Requests by civic and professional groups were slow in the beginning but significantly increased during the 1976-77 academic year.
Organizationally, a Coordinator was chosen or elected by the group. This individual coordinated requests for Ambassadors to speak. Occasionally, the request may have been for a specific Ambassador while some requests were not specific. The Coordinator worked with the Ambassadors and requesters to be sure that a schedule could be met and that the Ambassador would be ready.
So an Ambassadors for Agriculture group was launched! An excellent concept became a reality. And a very fine group of young people were able to continue to improve and master their skills in the art of public speaking. These improved skills would prove to be of great value to the students as they completed their college education and moved into the “work place”.
The Ambassadors for Agriculture at Texas Tech University, to the best of our knowledge was the first of its kind to be organized on a College campus. Subsequently, 25 to 30 organizations became reality on campuses where Agriculture was one of the disciplines being offered.
Currently, there are seven Ambassadors for Agriculture. They have spoken at area FFA and 4-H banquets; assisted in Career Technology sessions; helped judge public speaking events; and sponsored leadership training across the state. Community service activities included helping the Ronald McDonald House with Wish List Items for Christmas and sending Christmas cards to one of the local care centers. Tryouts are held each fall for prospective Ambassadors to give a speech dealing with agriculture and natural resources. The invitations for tryouts are only open to state 4-H and FFA officers and those who have won a state public speaking contest.
W. F. Bennett