Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chance Hunley delivers State Secretary's retiring address

Chance Hunley
2013-2014 Secretary
Riverton FFA


Voice: noun. The sound produced by a person and uttered through the mouth, as speech or song. We all have a different understanding of what a voice is, and something always comes to mind when we think of it. Some might think of someone like Josh Turner, singing “Your Man”. Others may think of someone like Paul Harvey as he spoke “So God Made a Farmer”. People like these have used their voices in powerful ways. Since the dawn of time, humans have used their voices in one way or another, whether that be entertaining or communicating. From my dad’s perspective, he would probably say that I have used my voice to argue with him non-stop, talk during TV shows (yes, I was that kid), and belt out songs entirely too loud. It’s amazing to think how much of a difference a voice can make in someone, and the effect and impression is has on others. But none of that can be seen unless we see how unique our voices are. It may take a little digging to find our own voices, but once we do we can use them to make a difference.

Whenever I created speeches in high school, I always wondered how I could make my voice unique, and stand out from everyone else. I’ve always been told I have a problem with “volume control”, so being heard wasn’t an issue. I wanted my message to mean something – to myself and to those I was sharing it with. After racking my brain I realized that by sharing my story, and my experiences, I am truly using my own voice. But sharing my message didn’t mean much if I couldn’t keep someone’s attention, so I actually tried changing my tone of voice. I tried a strong tone, and ended up sounding like a news anchor. I thought about singing, until my advisor said nooooo. Then it hit me: maybe I could engage others by using something way different than my tone of voice. I experimented a little, and I now have a list of 50 different accents and impersonations – everything from Sean Connery to Gollum from the Lord of the Rings. I’ve said the creed in a few, and once convinced a girl from London that I actually lived there. I always watch people’s reactions when I use an accent, because the smiles, the laughs, and the looks people give me like I’m a little weird show me that I really do have a voice that I call my own. We all have different parts to our voices that make us who we are. Some people have voices that are so powerful you can’t help but listen to them, some share a message with such passion that they immediately capture your attention, and others just have that special something in their voice. For Josh Turner, it’s that slow, deep, southern drawl and his country roots that give him his voice. For Paul Harvey, it’s the passion with which he shares his message that shines through. Don’t waste your time trying to be someone you’re not, because then how will you show off your own voice? We all have unique experiences that make us who we are. They shape our thoughts, actions, and the message that we share with others. Just like snowflakes, no two voices are exactly alike. Your voice is you. Embrace what makes you unique, don’t hide it! If you’re passionate about something, show it! Whether it’s something in school, sports, or the FFA, be proud to be a part of something bigger than yourself, because believe it or not, that’s truly where you can be yourself.

There are too many times in life when someone is okay with blending into the crowd and decides not to show themselves. What if you really like a particular CDE, but you’re one of the only ones who wants to participate? Are you going to not even try, or are you going to step up and be yourself because it’s something that you are passionate about? Be sure to tell your story, because not only are no two stories alike, neither are told the same. But while we can try so hard to use our voice to stand out, what happens if we don’t really know what our voice is? I ran into that problem when I was younger. It didn’t matter if I belted out songs as loud as I could when I was at home because when I was in public, I was silent. It turns out that I really didn’t have much of a voice of my own when I was younger. Picture with me a kid who always sat at the back of the class, would rather be reading than speaking, and would have conversations that felt like talking to a brick wall. That was me. I was that kid who was way more comfortable by myself than around other people. I never wanted to give a book report or presentation because those would actually involve me speaking, in front of people. I stayed that way until I walked into the Ag classroom my freshman year. I learned about this organization called FFA, and how you could get involved in all of these things that you were interested in. Even though my advisor and FFA encouraged public speaking, that was not something that was high on my priority list. But my advisor gave me a challenge, so I had to accept. I learned the FFA creed, and found myself in my very own jacket reciting the words, “I believe”. What a rush! I was scared out of my mind, but I thought I did great…and I liked it, because I spoke about something that was important to me. This was revolutionary! What else would I like if I actually tried it?

To this day I still think speaking in front of anyone is a scary experience, but I know that I can always improve by stepping out of my comfort zone. We all can. By taking on challenges like the one that my advisor gave me, I was able to literally find my voice through speaking. One that truly represents me, and what’s important to me. There are times where it feels alright to let other people take care of the hard stuff. That means smooth sailing, right? If only. You see, by losing those opportunities to have new experiences, we also lose opportunities to see what we can accomplish. While the challenge might seem scary, never be too scared to take the challenge on, because it might lead to one of those defining moments in your life. If I was too scared to run for an office, I wouldn’t be on this stage. But when we open ourselves up to new experiences, and constantly seek them out, we put ourselves on a road to success. Sometimes that road just feels like it’s going in circles, and other times it’s so long and winding that we feel a little lost. Don’t give up. Keep pushing, because it’s by making that effort that we all see what we’re made of, and what our voices really are. It might seem impossible, but if you’re scared to try out something new, or even if you think you are comfortable where you are at, I dare you to challenge yourself. I found my voice through speaking, but you don’t have to be involved in speaking to find your voice. Maybe that involves trying out a different CDE, or running for that officer position. It might be applying for a new job, or it might just be asking that cute FFA member to dance. You never know what you can truly accomplish unless you try. Don’t wait for someone else to come along and take an opportunity that you can seize right now. Focus on the strengths! What are some of the strengths and talents that you possess? Most importantly, focus on what makes you happy, because that is where you can truly find your voice. Some of loudest and proudest leaders in the world have something that they are passionate about, or something that they are working towards. Without constantly stepping up and stepping out, their voices might not exist! Always try to find how your voice truly sounds. No one knows how much work it will take to find their voice until they look back, so start looking now! Once all of this work is put into finding the voice that belongs to you, there’s only one thing to do: use it!

People use their voices in many different ways. Sometimes, we use our voices to give titles to each other that help us define who we are: funny, smart, athletic, kind. When people describe us as those words, we feel like we’re invincible. But there are other titles that are given: stupid, freak, runt, insignificant. Words that, when we hear them, completely tear down our defenses. I know I’ve definitely been called a few of those. You see, in middle school, I wasn’t much of anyone – I was pretty much invisible. I had moved up a grade in elementary school, making me younger and much smaller than everyone in my class. Since I skipped a grade, I was singled out as the “smart kid”. At first it started out small, like being picked on for my age or my size, but over time it grew; if I got an answer wrong, some of my classmates would tell me how “stupid I was for getting it wrong” and laugh at me; people would slam my locker in my face if I was using it; and if I ever tried to do my work without letting someone copy off of me, they turned against me. It kept coming and coming, each time making me feel smaller and smaller. I tried to remember the saying: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” But whoever came up with that never said anything about words making you afraid to go to school, or scared to even get out of bed because you know what’s waiting for you. As things started to get worse, there were people who noticed it. Classmates that held out a hand when I was down, and those who stood up for me between the people who harmed me. They used their voices to help me. They selflessly gave themselves to a cause, and for that I am forever grateful, and proud to call them some of my best friends today. By using their voices in a meaningful way, they helped me find strength. I know what it’s like to be ignored, and treated like my voice doesn’t matter. But I know now what it’s like to be proud of who I am, and what I stand for.

Wherever you go in life, whatever you do, be sure to use your voice in a positive and impactful way – sometimes that is all that’s needed to make a huge difference. Never be afraid to stand up and use your voice, because that automatically makes you brave. Stand up, and be heard for what you believe in. You may find that you aren’t the only one standing. Speak up, because a voice speaking a few positive words can drown out a negative voice speaking a thousand. Our voices are who we are: our hopes, our talents, our likes, and our dislikes. No person has the right to take it away from you, or tell you that you or your voice doesn’t matter. In fact, it matters more than many things, because it is by using our voices that we leave our mark upon the world. People might remember you for your voice, but you are better remembered by what you do with it. By choosing how we sound, and what message we share, we can all make a difference. That difference can be just one person, or it could be a thousand, but just remember that by changing even one life, you are changing the world. By choosing to use your voice in a negative way, to hurt those around you, you are actually hurting yourself. You are closing yourself off to relationships and connections that you might have had otherwise. Be aware of other people’s feelings and actions, because those are their voices as well. Always seek opportunities to make a positive difference in the world, wherever you see a need for it. If you think you would have helped me when I was younger, and stood up for me, let me hear you say “yeah!” I could have used all of you guys six years ago. Imagine a thousand blue jackets just stepping in to help a middle schooler. Now if you’re passionate about the FFA, let me hear a “whoop whoop!” Ah, sweet music. You see, that was just a part of all of your voices coming together. And while each of them is unique, that’s the greatest part of using our voices: coming together. Make sure now, and in your future, to surround yourself with passionate individuals. They may have the same likes and dislikes or a little different, but either way you are placing yourself among people who are willing to help you make a difference. I found those passionate individuals this year, and I call them my teammates. Let’s take a moment to ask ourselves the question, “Do I surround myself with people who use their voices in a positive way?” If that’s a no, what can you do to fix that? If it’s a yes, where do you go from here, and what can you do together with them? When you show your passion, you are giving your voice purpose. With purpose, you’ll always find new reasons to use your voice. To speak, to sing, and to laugh. Sometimes I wish life had an easy button. I could press it and go back and tell myself all of these things that I’ve learned about life; I would grow up to not be as tiny; I would actually like talking to people; and I would have the most amazing experiences ahead of me. But honestly, I wouldn’t want to do anything any differently, because I know that it’s by embracing who we are that gives us a unique voice. It’s by always reaching for new experiences that we find our voices, and how we use all of our voices determines the impact that we have on the world around us. Kansas FFA, use your voice!

No comments:

Post a Comment