Former National FFA President, Oklahoma Native Riley Pagett Speaks to FFA's Presence on the HillTue, 31 Oct 2017 13:12:52 CDT
Before Owasso's Piper Merritt was elected to the 2018-19 National FFA Officer Team this past week at the National FFA Convention, Riley Pagett of Woodward was the last Oklahoman to hold a national office with the organization, elected in 2010 as the National FFA President. Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays had the chance to catch up with Pagett during the Convention in Indianapolis, to discuss the organization he once served as an officer and continues to serve, as a member of the organization's Washington, D.C. office. Listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
For the last two years or so, I've been the Director of Government Relations and Advocacy, which is just a fancy title for meaning that I get to interact with business leaders, folks on the Hill, folks in the Administration - to raise the profile of youth in food and agriculture education in that environment," Pagett explained. "I get to do some really cool stuff, meet some really great people and all for the greater good of the FFA."
Pagett began his career in Washington, first working for the House Agriculture Committee under then Chairman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma. He later worked on Oklahoma Senator James Lankford's staff, before making the move to the National FFA Organization which had an opening at just the right time - a coincidence he recalls as having been too good to be true.
"Gosh! What a chance to do this," he remembered saying upon hearing about the opportunity. "It's a cool chance for me to get to spread some of their message there, but an even cooler chance when I can bring them to that environment and introduce them to some of the people that I work with regularly and showcase their talents and some of the skills they're learning in their home chapters."
Working for the FFA, Pagett says, has been a rewarding experience and one he takes great pride in being able to represent the organization and its members in the company of many of our nation's leaders and policymakers. According to him, whenever FFA is mentioned in Washington, very few in government aren't able to relate a fond memory of interacting with FFA members and an appreciation for what the organization is all about.
"The blue jacket is so recognizable," Pagett remarked. "When meeting with those people and when telling the FFA story, we'll introduce them to a member because they may not make the connection between FFA and agricultural education necessarily, but they've likely seen that blue jacket somewhere along the way."
His efforts in D.C. have been integral to the FFA's mission, helping top officials like Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos understand the important connection between career and technical education as industry leaders search to incorporate more STEM disciplines into today's learning systems - and offers FFA as the tool through which to accomplish this need.
"I think that agriculture education delivers all sorts of STEM," he said. "Science, technology, engineering, math - we are the drivers of that movement."
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