A Lesson In Perspective…

Grandma made the trip from Florida to Nebraska to watch :)

Grandma made the trip from Florida to Nebraska to watch ๐Ÿ™‚

My favorite 16 year old brunette traded her basketball shoes for high heels this winter when she became a member of the 2016 Haymaker Speech Team. Her long-time dream of attending an Ivy League college combined with the intellectual nature that she inherited from her mildly nerdy parents led her to the path of public speaking. She began the season as a novice participator and ended it as a varsity competitor at the Nebraska Class B State Meet on Wednesday.

Ashley Grace qualified for state in the Extemporaneous Speaking category. An incredibly unique event, Extemporaneous Speaking involves drawing a topic from a large pool of both global and domestic current events to create a 5-7 minute speech citing specific news resources to support the oratory content. Each competitor has 1 hour to write and prepare the speech before presenting it to a judge/judges. Every meet involves the entrants competing in 2-3 rounds (2 preliminary, 1 final) drawing different topics for each round.

I have to admit that I nudged my favorite brunette toward this topic because I recognized the invaluable life skills that it would help her to develop. Learning to intelligently convey your thoughts in an effective, organized, and interesting manner ranks at the top of Anneโ€™s list of life skills. Being able to do it publically in front of a judge, under the pressure of time constraints, is nothing short of awesome. I watched my daughter evolve from a nervous and unconfident competitor to a poised, thought provoking, and eloquent speaker over the span of four months.

While the season far surpassed any expectation that I had as a parent, it ended in a sea of frustration for my daughter. After winning the first round at the state meet, she delivered what I believed to be the best speech of her career in the 2nd round. Her seven minute oratory on necessary changes within the Republican Party leadership in order to rein in fringe candidates was clever, organized, and beautifully presented. Unfortunately, the judge did not agree with her interpretation of the topic question and, as a result, scored her so harshly that she fell short of qualifying for finals.

The experience provided an interesting lesson in perspectiveโ€ฆ

One could argue that a differing personal interpretation of an open ended question should not result in such a punitive score reduction. This action ultimately denied her an opportunity to compete in the finals, but I think that perhaps the lesson is much larger than placing at the Nebraska State Speech meet. The lesson did not appear in the lost medal; rather, it originated in the season long acquisition of a valuable public speaking skill and culminated in the realization that the same words on a paper can mean different things to different people.

It is hard for many of us to recognize that perspective colors interpretation; but that is a reality. Neither the judge nor my daughter were wrong on Wednesday, they simply interpreted words differently as a result of having unique perspectives. I cannot begin to count the times in my ag-vocating journey where this has occurred. Perhaps one of my most valuable acquired life skills came from the realization that the blending of eclectic perspectives leads to learning and personal growth. The first step in this process is accepting that words and views can be meaningfully interpreted from multiple angles.

I am incredibly proud of Ashley Grace โ€“ the poise that she displayed this week as well as the hard work that went into her public speaking transformation warms my heart. While it may take a few days for her to let go of the disappointment of the lost medal, I am confident that she will ultimately realize that that the true prize exists in a broadened perspective and the maturity that comes from being able to look at the world from a variety of angles.

My favorite farmer fervently wishes that the leaders of our National Republican Party could have listened to the words of her speech โ€“ perhaps then our country would be able to climb out of its current political quagmire ๐Ÿ˜‰




Filed under Ashley Grace's Corner and The Chick Project..., Family, General

21 responses to “A Lesson In Perspective…

  1. Congrats Ashley Grace for making it as far as you did. You should be proud as I know how hard those events can be. Keep trying and not letting this disappointment hold you back, your perspective is valuable. Especially with the current political climate, the world can use smart and focused young ladies like yourself.
    I know your mom and dad are pround ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. As you get into FFA, you will also have the opportunity to compete in Extempt. The topics will all be ag based, but well worth the effort to compete. Keep looking ahead, and know that just as in the show ring, it is just one person’s opinion. This contest takes so much more preparation then some people give credit for. Good luck in future competitions.

    • Thank you! We do not currently have an FFA program in Cozad — we formed a search committee this year but with state funding cuts, the school will not be able to hire an Ag teacher for next school year. We try to talk plenty of “Ag” at home in addition to politics so hopefully she is well versed there as well. Hopefully our community will get an FFA program within the next few years so her sisters can take advantage of it ๐Ÿ™‚ In the meantime, I agree that speech is a great place to develop those skills.

      Thank you for your kind words and support.


  3. Kathy Bottrell

    My perspective is a bit different than your family’s, I am a staunch Democrat. But, it saddens me when someone in the position of the judge Ashley encountered can’t step back and score a contestant on the fine job she did. What saddens me even more, is that this judge is far from alone in how they react to someone with a differing opinion. I am sad for Ashley, but even sadder for our country. I think folks like this judge have directly contributed to a very messy and scary campaign.

    • Kathy,

      Yes, I agree — our country is in a sad state and this campaign is most certainly “messy and scary”. We all have so much in common (regardless of political persuasion) but our leaders cannot seem to look past the drama to find common ground. It saddens me that somehow our country feels the need to bring people down instead of celebrating differences and working toward a team work mentality.

      Life is full of lessons — this one Ashley Grace will carry with her to help her on her journey. These type of experiences build maturity and perseverance. I look forward to watching her use it as fuel for the next couple of years of competition ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. Ken Benson

    I would really be interested in the text of your daughter’s speech. We are on the young side of middle age raising hay and cattle under pivots and are privileged that our son, daughter-in and two young grandsons enrich our lives in this business and life-style. Cutting to the chase your family and our’s are each threatened to the very core of our existence and future sustainability by the lack of values and abandonment of focus projected in the political environment now thrust upon us. We have followed your blog for going on a couple of years now and commend you for your inner perspective and willingness to share. Keep up the good work!! Continue to dig deep for the right words to convey your experirces, obeservations, and intuition regarding beef cattle production — your passion and God’s gift — to so many of us who consider the whole enterprise as a labor of love and dignity.

    • Thank you, Ken — for both your nice comment and continued support reading the blog. We are blessed to raise our families on the farm, and I do enjoy sharing our journey. I appreciate you taking the time to read.

      I am trying to get Ashley Grace to turn her speech into a letter to send to our Republican leadership. I will pass it along if I manage to talk her into it!


  5. Adele Hite, MPH RD

    First, congratulations to Ashley Grace for her accomplishments in this area! I’ve taught public speaking to college students, and I am very aware of what a difficult skill this is to master.

    And–I love how you brought her experiences around to a larger perspective on issues of food and politics! As nutritionist who is also an advocate for re-examining our current demonization of meat and other animal products, I am assumed to be (pick one): a right-wing conservative, a libertarian, a “shill” for agribusiness, etc. I find this frustrating at times and amusing at others, since I feel my words come from a lefty, progressive, liberal stance that champions social justice (people are made sick–or remain sick–through inappropriate dietary advice issued by people out of touch with the reality of many Americans). Ah well. It is without a doubt a valuable lesson to learn that what you say is not necessarily what people hear ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Charles Flanagan

      Keep up the good work Adele! There is so much bad information out there that is confusing consumers. They are trying to understand how to eat better and buy smarter, but good, honest, science-based guidance is buried by nonsense claimed to be good nutritional advice. This situation can only be cured by much more access to sound nutritional advice from people like you. I know it is difficult to try to educate people that already have their minds made up. This often leads to personal attacks and other unpleasant situations. But the work is important and I hope you will continue to do it. Thank you!

      • Adele Hite, MPH RD

        Thank you for the kind words. It helps to keep with me the memories of the people (especially women) I met in clinic who had poured many hours of their lives into following what they had been told was “a healthy diet”–invariably low in animal products. They were tired, hungry, and still on their way to chronic disease. Given some different information, they could get back their health and a large part of their lives. I don’t claim to have the same answer for everyone, but I do believe people should be given more than one way to find dietary health.

    • Kathy Bottrell

      I know I don’t say this often enough, but kudos to the folks who are willing to buck the system, and advocate for good education and good food i.e. nutrient dense food for the masses. At one point members of the Nebraska Unicameral were trying to pass laws to make raw milk, fresh from the farm available to us. I always say if animal fat makes a person fat, I would be too wide to fit through the doorway. lol

      • Adele Hite, MPH RD

        With good education–education that is critical, thoughtful, and open to entertaining alternative perspectives–the good food part might take care of itself!

    • I appreciate your comment and perspective, Adele. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts — And, THANK YOU for your work on nutrition. Please know that there are many of us that appreciate all of your hard work and passion. It is a hard battle, and I am thankful that you honor your vocation in nutrition by spreading the truth.

      Have a blessed Easter.

  6. Charles Flanagan

    Yes, there were several lessons learned here. With hard work and perseverance comes growth. Unfortunately, sometimes even with hard work results are less than hoped for. That is an important lesson too. Rebounding from defeat is one of the most important lessons in being successful. Success is the intersection of preparation and opportunity. We can’t always control opportunity, but with adequate preparation at least when opportunity does comes along, we are ready to take advantage of it. Keep up the good work Ashley Grace and mom!

    • What an awesome quote, Charles: “Success is the intersection of preparation and opportunity.” I love it! I am always searching for quotes to spout to my girls and the kids on my swim team — now I have a new one to add to the bunch ๐Ÿ™‚

      You are absolutely on point with your thoughts. Thank you for sharing.


  7. Rex Peterson

    Congratulations Ashley Grace,
    My son Galen had a similar experience the first year in Extemp, and then persevered for to place in years to come. The most valuable benefit of extemporaneous speaking in your high school years is the poise you will possess for college interviews and classes.
    Very pleased you are in speech.

    • Matt and I are pleased that she is in speech as well — kuddos to your son for his perseverance and success. We are looking forward to continuing to watch Ashley Grace develop her skills. Like you, I love the poise and speaking skills that are leaned by participating in Extemp — they are certainly valuable “life skills”.

      I hope that all is well to the west and that you weathered the blizzard this week as well as possible.


      • Rex Peterson

        Thank you Anne,
        We got off scot free. All the cattle stayed out on corn stalks and swathes. Moderate winds and maybe a hundredth of an inch of snow. We were just on the very north edge of the storm. I am glad to see your responding since that tells me you are getting dug out. We were worried for you.

  8. kim

    so well written…I’m sure your daughter has learned some writing style from you!! Give her big kudos on working hard, thinking outside the box and pressing on despite the emotional set-back. Life Skills are more important than a medal. Maybe she should write political speeches! ๐Ÿ™‚

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