I get the chance to speak at two or three FFA banquets every spring, and have for many years. Since I’ve been around for so long, I’m now being invited to speak for the second time at a few of these places and such was the occasion last Monday evening.
It just so happened that I was asked to return to my home county (not the high school from which I graduated, but one in a neighboring district) to speak at their annual parent/member banquet after almost 44 years, to the day, to the school where I delivered my first-ever public speech. Back in 1970, I was so nervous and scared that I have absolutely no recollection of what I spoke about. The only thing I do remember is that the President of their FFA introduced me and I started speaking at exactly 7:00 p.m. I finished at exactly 7:07 p.m., and the crowd rewarded me with polite applause.
At the banquet last week, I had a very enjoyable time visiting with the superintendent and principal during the meal. The superintendent used to teach in my hometown and still lives there so we had many mutual friends to visit about, and the principal is a former student of mine, so it was fun catching up with all of his experiences since graduation. There was also a smattering of people who had taken classes under me or knew my parents or friends. All in all, it was one of the more ‘fun’ banquets I have attended.
As I spoke that evening, I began to recount stories of my youthful days in that county, as well as stories about former students, of which I thought the blue-jacketed members could relate. It seemed to be going so well that I looked up at the clock in the cafeteria and was surprised to discover that I had already spoken between 30 and 35 minutes, thus I wrapped it up rather quickly. I knew that the parents had not come to hear me, but rather to watch their sons and daughters receive recognition for their accomplishments over the past year.
After the banquet had concluded, I was visiting with the people I knew, congratulating members for their success, and meeting residents of the small community when I noticed one older attendee that seemed to be waiting to talk to me. When a break occurred in my conversation, the gentleman stuck out his hand to introduce himself and thank me for traveling the 140 miles to speak at their banquet. I assured him that I had enjoyed being at their school and considered it an honor to be invited.
“You know,” he added, “I was here in 1970 when you spoke the first time.”
“You’re kidding?” I answered in amazement. “Do you remember what I talked about?”
“Nope, but I do remember the length of that speech was just about right.”