Q&A: What was it like being the National FFA President?


His reign as the 2016-2017 National FFA President is coming to an end, but it’s a year David Townsend will never forget. In the last 365 days in office, Townsend has packed on the miles, worn many hats, and met so many inspiring FFA members from every corner of the country.

With National FFA Convention week upon us, we asked the Delaware native to fill us in on what it was like to be President:

Q. After a year on the job, what do you think was the most surprising part of the job that you never expected you would be doing?

A. The most surprising component of being a National FFA Officer is the great variety and quantity of hats worn, and roles fulfilled. This year, each of us has served as a friend to all, but also a mentor, supporter, teacher, advisor, board member, host, sponsor steward, and so much more. Recognizing the variety of audiences with which we got to speak – in addition to their wants and needs was surprising, but also helped us to be adaptable to audiences we will engage with in the future.

Courtesy of National FFA

Q. What do you think was the best achievement the National FFA team and yourself accomplished this year?

A. Each year, the national officers develop a legacy platform to continue efforts on a certain front beyond just a year of service. This year, our team focused our efforts on We Are FFA – a inclusion and diversity platform. Our goal is to insure that every person feels welcome in the FFA. We recognize that to accomplish this, it has to be a mission of the heart of our organization – the chapter level, so we developed multiple areas of content, and filmed a Facebook Live video to explain our mission and vision for this platform. We are excited to see where this legacy platform goes in the future.

Q. You traveled more than 100,000 miles this past year to interact with business and industry leaders, thousands of FFA members and teachers, corporate sponsors, government and education officials, state FFA leaders, the general public, and more. What was one of the most rewarding moments that stood out to you this year?

A. Some of my favorite memories from this year are when I have gotten to spend an extended period of time with a smaller group of members. These experiences enable you to truly get to know the people you are spending time with, which makes those connections incredibly rewarding. I am thankful for experiences like the Wyoming FFA Leadership Camp, the New Mexico State FFA Convention, and the two National Leadership Conference for State Officers that I had the opportunity to co-facilitate that have promoted these deeper, longer lasting connections with members.

Courtesy of National FFA

Q. What’s your advice for the next incoming President?

A. One of the things I struggled with this year was figuring out how to effectively document all of the incredible moments from this year. I always seem to forget to take photos at events, so instead I would always keep a little notebook in my pocket to jot down things I wanted to remember. My advice for this next year’s team is to figure out one or two ways to document the year effectively that work for their habits and tendencies. The year will go by incredibly quickly, but finding that way to document the year will insure that all of those memories will last forever.

Q. If you could do the year over, what would you do differently?

A. Experiencing things for the first time is what makes them moments of growth and development. Instead of replacing moments from this past year, if I did the year over, I would search for even more firsts.

Q. Where will the future take you from here?

A. Following the National FFA Convention at the end of this month, life will take me back to college to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Plant Science. From there, I’m not completely certain. This year has shown me so many incredible career opportunities, and I am so excited to continue to explore career options in production agriculture and agribusiness with a focus on fruit and vegetable production.

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