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What’s Right

The lights dimmed for the opening of the Kentucky FFA awards ceremony. I stood in the back of the room stuffed with nearly 1,200 high school students from across the state. Each wore one of those heavy FFA jackets despite the crowded, climate-controlled hotel ballroom.

A few feet in front of me I squinted at a point of light skittering up and down in mid-air. I figured out it came from the spotlights and disco balls reflecting off the glasses of one of the FFA members. He hopped, spun, threw his arms in the air, and whooped to the opening music while most of the others in the room simply stood and clapped and cheered loudly. As the opening rock ’n’ roll fanfare blended into a video accompanying the song I’m Proud to be an American, the dancer joined a line of 10 other FFA jackets, swaying and singing. After the song they huddled, arms on each other’s backs, breaking the circle with a yell like a championship team taking the field.

The state president addressed the group clearly and loudly—not the shy, uncertain delivery normally associated with high school students. In the hallway, other jackets looked me in the eye and offered firm handshakes.

I recalled worries people talk about: kids don’t respect authority, people don’t care any more, civility is breaking down.

Not here.

I thought of another group of students. The next day 77 high schoolers from around the state would board a bus headed for the nation’s capital. When they arrived, Kentucky’s 32nd annual Rural Electric Washington Youth Tour delegates would join some 2,000 other students from around the country for a week of visiting historic monuments, meeting elected officials, and dancing away some of that young energy.

In the past I’ve helped coordinate that Youth Tour. The funding and massive organization that electric co-ops put into the program is one of the prouder parts of what electric co-ops do. Those of us who work with the Youth Tour have a lighthearted yet accurate way to refer to its participants: winsome and wholesome.

As I watched the FFA students line up to receive the 85 awards presented at the convention, I compared them and the Youth Tourers with complaints about “kids today.”

I decided our nation is in fine shape.

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