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Guest Opinions

Leading with Class

Written by Matthew Winterholler

I grew up watching politics. It became something that is a huge interest to me, and I’ve gained many role models in the political arena. Politics brings a few of my favorite things together - leadership, debate and critical thinking.

As much as I wish it weren’t true, many politicians – our most recognizable leaders – don’t lead with class. I wake up every day to an article in the paper or a story on the news about one political leader spewing derogatory remarks toward another. These statements from politicians lack basic manners, etiquette and tact. Is this who we want to become? If we aren’t careful, we’ll lose our vision of what we want to be and where we want to go. As FFA members, we can show the rest of the world what leading with class really means.

Leading with class is important. While many people may define the word, “class,” as dressing nicely, having fancy dinners or being wealthy, class goes much further than that. Class can’t be bought. Rather, it’s an attitude. An attitude of manners, etiquette and tact. An attitude of respect and inclusion. The attitude of an FFA member.

Recently, at National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind., I had the opportunity to sit on the Committee for Increasing Alumni Engagement. In this committee, delegates from all 50 states were able to voice their opinions. During committee meetings and business sessions throughout the week, I was struck by the respect that every delegate had for each other. Everyone’s voice was heard, while none were criticized in a derogatory manner.

In FFA, as leaders, we recognize the importance of leading with class – forming a tactful debate, respecting each other and their opinions and recognizing that letting other’s voices be heard is what makes democracy – and FFA – so great. That recognition among FFA members allows others to feel welcome in our organization no matter their background, which has led the FFA to be the largest student-led organization in the United States.

When we present ourselves in a positive way, we are presenting ourselves for the future. Leading with manners and etiquette not only means a good image for you and the organization you’re representing, but it also means being a respectable influence for others, future job offers and notability among your constituents, peers and elders.

Benjamin Franklin said it best, as he said, “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

When we remember this, we become the world-changers of tomorrow.

Leading with class goes much farther than the clothes you wear and the money you have. Leading with class is making a positive difference in the lives of people around you by spreading kindness and respect for others, doing so with manners, etiquette, and tact. Leading with class is about being a light in the lives of others and making them feel welcome. Leading with class is making a positive ImpACT on your FFA chapter, your community, your friends and your family.

Matthew Winterholler wrote this piece for the Wyoming FFA Association’s blog, titled “impACT,” which can be found at wyomingffa.wordpress.com. Visit the blog each month for a new post from the Wyoming FFA State Officer Team.