When I was 9 and joined 4-H, my parents insisted I participate in the speech contest. What I did not know then is that this would wind up basically being my career 25 years later.
As a little 9 year old, I practiced my speech–Life on the Family Farm–over as over again standing on our fireplace. I talked about irrigating our farmland and a bottle lamb that died in my arms (dramatic, right?) I went to the contest, not excited about having to talk in front of people, and ended up winning a blue ribbon.
Oh, the denim dress and red flats…🤦🏼♀️
Over the years, I continued competing in speech contests in both 4-H and FFA. The Creed, prepared public speaking, extemporaneous speaking, I did a little bit of it all. The more I did it, the more I liked it and the less nervous I was speaking in front of people. It allowed me to find a confidence in myself that I didn’t know I had. It made me learn how to think on my feet and defend statements I had made.
When my speaking career drew to a close, I had won a 4-H State Championship in extemporaneous speaking and was a State Runner Up in FFA prepared public speaking (beaten by my dear friend Rozann…yes the one with the cookie recipe).
And because sometimes things really do come full circle, today, a big part of my job is essentially a prepared public speaking contest. I travel the state (and country) speaking about agricultural law issues.
I am so grateful for my mom and dad spending the time and effort to ensure I got the benefits from these activities. I know it was not always fun making a whining child practice their speech or having to hear the Creed for the millionth time. But it truly was an important investment in my future.
The nerves are long gone now, but the appreciation I have for my parents insisting that I do that contest and instilling that the ability to speak in public is an important value remain.