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Congressman celebrates FFA week at FHS

Congressman Jason Smith visited Fredericktown High School’s FFA students Feb. 21 to celebrate National FFA Week. 

“I was excited that it is National FFA Week,” Smith said. “I was like ‘I have to come to an FFA Chapter in our congressional district,’ and I picked Fredericktown.”

Smith said he was honored to be in Fredericktown to visit with the students and appreciates their involvement in FFA.

“I have said it numerous times, but my four years that I spent in FFA changed my life without a doubt,” Smith said. “The reason I started FFA was because my brother was in it.”

Smith said he did not have a great reason for joining other than he thought he may get out of school a lot.

“In fact it was the best decision I made,” Smith said. “In fact, I think it changed the entire course of my life. When I started in this organization I couldn’t even do the FFA creed. Those five paragraphs, one paragraph at a time, barely putting a sentence together was so difficult because I was a shy kid who couldn’t get in front of people.”

Smith said he never realized at the time how beneficial the leadership skills he learned in FFA would be and how it changed his life.

“It started with my FFA project, my supervised agricultural experience project,” Smith said. “I got summoned by the local city council and told that I couldn’t have my FFA project because I was running a commercial business in a residential area.”

Smith said he had to go in front of the local city council numerous times and ended up losing the appeal.

“Their ultimate ruling was that I was running a commercial business,” Smith said. “It was 15 feet from my dad’s auto repair shop which was a commercial business but the fact that I had four dogs, that was a commercial business so I could no longer have that FFA project.”

Smith said in his hometown of Salem, which he loves so dearly, those city council members no longer preside on the council.

“I will say that we moved out of town and I was able to grow my FFA project and I won state proficiency and specialty animal production,” Smith said. “It just prepared me for the job that I have today. That experience as a freshman gave me an interest in government that I never had, and from that moment forward, I have always paid attention to state, local, county and city decisions and how they affect our lives.”

Smith said he knew he wanted to stop things like that from happening. He said he did not know how, but it drove him to study agricultural economics and continue on to law school before ultimately ending up running for public office.

“I reiterate to you all, what you are learning every day in this classroom or in the judging contests that you may participate in or even on some of the trips that you go on, those activities really developed character that I didn’t know was coming,” Smith said. “It did mold me.”

Smith said he is still in touch with the friends he made in FFA almost 20 years ago and they are supportive of him and his career to this day.

“The day that I got elected to congress, June 4, 2013, there were roughly 300 of my closest friends and family that showed up to the city hall in Salem,” Smith said. “They handed me my framed FFA jacket from when I was the president. It was mainly my officer team that I served with. We are still friends and they showed up 14 years later.”

Smith said the jacket is currently hanging in his office in Washington D.C.

“Friends is what I value most other than the skills that I gained that I didn’t even know I was obtaining,” Smith said. “The good thing about being in this program is it prepares you for whatever you want to do. If you want to get a four-year degree or you want to be a lawyer or a doctor or you want to be a welder or a plumber or a teacher or a farmer they’re all great careers and jobs you can have.”

Smith said if he was not in politics, he would be a full-time farmer and joked his congressional salary subsidizes his farm.

“It’s (farming) just my passion and what I love dearly,” Smith said. “Its just a way of life that we are so fortunate to have because of where we live and a lot of people don’t get to experience it.” 

Smith said, in order to be successful in life, it is important to know how to build relationships and understand people.

“If you don’t build relationships and get to know the people that you work with you’re not going to be any good at it,” Smith said. “In FFA, the team building activities that we did where you learn the talents and traits and how people would react and work together taught me so much.”

Smith said he encourages all members to get involved, pay attention and to show up.

A student from the audience asked Smith what was his biggest life lesson from FFA.

“The best experience that I ever had in FFA was one of my biggest defeats,” Smith said. “I wanted to be a state FFA officer more than anything else that I had set in all my goals in FFA and I lost it to one of by best friends. Learning from losing really taught me what I should have done differently and how to improve. It was one of those things you don’t forget.”

Before Smith departed for his next stop, he encouraged all members to apply for the Congressional Award presented by the United States Congress.

“This is something that every FFA member, I think, should be participating in because you are already doing everything that qualifies,” Smith said. “It is just signing up, filling out the paper work, setting the goals and going forward. You all do that as freshman starting in the FFA and it would be awesome to be recognized through Congress.”

Smith said fewer people are recognized for a Gold Medal Congressional Award in the district than those who receive Eagle Scout or the American FFA Degree.

To learn more about the Congressional Award visit

Congressman Jason Smith stands with members of the Fredericktown chapter of FFA after his visit on Feb. 21.

Congressman Jason Smith stands with members of the Fredericktown chapter of FFA after his visit on Feb. 21.

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at

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