Image for 2022-23 Kansas FFA President Karlie Albright Delivers Retiring Address

2022-23 Kansas FFA President Karlie Albright Delivers Retiring Address

Convention Royal Valley

Embrace the Loss

It was 2016 and things were heating up for the most divisive political battle we’ve ever seen. Voters rallied to support the candidate that best represented their needs. It was filled with drama, suspense, and dedication by the candidates, and worst of all.. the media outlets didn’t cover it…. because it was my 7th grade Student Council Elections. After the grueling process, and completion of the votes, the results were announced, and just like that, I was elected the Girl Student Council Representative for the whole 7th grade! At the time, this was a huge deal for me as it was one of the first opportunities that I had to be a leader in my class. So come 8th grade year, I made the bold decision to run for Royal Valley Middle School Student Council President. When all the candidates were announced, I found out I was running against one other individual, whom we will call Ryan for the sake of the story. Similar to the previous year, these elections were filled with drama, suspense, and the candidates’ dedication.

Throughout the weeks leading up to the elections, we would show our dedication by having conversations with our peers, specifically discussing what we would do to make a change in our school. I don’t exactly remember my “political sales pitch”, but it was likely somewhere along the lines of “I will strengthen school spirit and help build a sense of community through improving relationships between students, teachers, and parents.” — Like any middle schooler wants to hear that… And Ryan’s campaign pitch? … As president, I promise to install a school swimming pool!” Now that sounds like fun.

When it came time for the elections, we both had to give a short speech as to why we should be elected. We poured every intention that we had for the school into those speeches, which sounded very similar to our previous discussions with our peers. After we gave our speeches, our classmates made their votes. We waited in great anticipation to hear who the individuals were that would serve on the Royal Valley Middle School Student Council. And then it was time. They made the announcement over the intercom after we returned to class, “and for the office of Student Council President… Ryan Walsh!” In that moment, a wave of frustration, anger, and disbelief washed over me. Seriously??? I had honest conversations, yet how could my classmates elect a guy who promised something he could never fulfill? How are we supposed to pay for a swimming pool? A bake sale? In the midst of processing all that just happened, my peers informed me that previous to the vote, he was telling everyone not to vote for me because “Karlie wins everything and it’s about time she lost!” Every step that he took to get elected raised a fire within me, because I didn’t think he was running for the right reason.

I don’t really think about that day, May 3rd 2017…okay maybe I do. When I do, I wonder, did he run for student council because he truly wanted to be a leader in the school? I doubt it, but I can’t say for sure. What I am sure about is that I have learned a lot since then. There was no cheating in the election; all the students voted, and all the votes were counted. Ryan won fair and square. So why have I been so angry at him all this time? We have instincts to be angry and upset when we lose or fall short of something we strive for. We then blame the individual who may have had more success than us because that is the easy thing to do. But like I just said, Ryan won fair and square. After he was elected, I shouldn’t have been mad at him for his success, but what I should have said to him was, “congratulations”. It is a challenge to respectfully say congratulations in these scenarios, but it is the first step to moving on in a healthy way. — A line in the song ‘Biscuits’ by Kacey Musgraves says, “I’ve never gotten taller making someone else feel small.” The grudge I had wasn’t making me feel ‘taller’ it only distracted and held me back from finding ways to serve others in another capacity.Every bitter thought, every ounce of annoyance inside me, all of that effort toward negativity, and for what? To prove what? That I am a better leader? A better leader would be honorable enough to accept defeat gracefully, not be spiteful of an outcome. A better leader would put the past behind and actively choose to be kind. A better leader would serve regardless of ‘a title’.

If we fall short of something we strive for, it is okay to feel upset. In fact, these feelings are important in telling us that we truly care about the situation. But we shouldn’t be upset at the other individual for their success, we shouldn’t even necessarily be upset at ourselves, as long as we tried our hardest. But what we must do is accept our defeat, acknowledge our shortcomings, and press on towards our self-improvement. It is challenging to grasp onto the concept that we haven’t reached the peak of our potential, but that is what will eventually make us stand out. We each have the choice to quit wasting energy reflecting on situations that we can’t change, and focusing that energy on something bigger than ourselves.

One of the richest and most successful people in the world didn’t have a one and done success story. When this individual was around the age of 15, he and his friend began building software that tracked data within traffic. They built up a computer, thought they had it running efficiently, had their first possible client look at it… and the result? Fail. But this young gentleman truly enjoyed devoting time to building software, so he didn’t let that failure stop him. Billionaire Bill Gates didn’t start out with immediate money in his pocket. He and his friend Paul Allen accepted this defeat of their original project, and allowed it to help them move forward, creating what we all know as Microsoft. A billion-dollar company, that made these men so rich, started from a failure that they overcame. They got knocked down, even if it was by a piece of technology, with the ability to be angry with the situation. They did not hold a grudge or have pity for themselves for being defeated. Bill Gates and Paul Allen failed at first, accepted those struggles, figured out ways that they could move past it, and took action that ended up changing the face of technology.

Think in your head if any of these situations have applied to your life and made you spiteful. Someone else got the parking spot you were about to go for. You begin to feel your blood boil and have the urge to scream in the car, when you stop, and give them credit for being quicker. — You help a friend study for a test, and they end up getting a better grade. You automatically feel bitter and angry at your friend. When you are trying to decide whether to tell them they owe it to you, you stop, and congratulate them for successfully understanding the material. – You might have run for re-election for an officer position, just to fall below the same individual as the previous year. The frustration is overwhelming, and all you want to do is cry, but then you stop, and congratulate them, with excitement to work together to make an impact as team members. — Or maybe you stood on this stage this week and didn’t receive the outcome that you hoped for. Your hard work feels unnoticed, you wonder why you weren’t good enough, and you feel discouraged. Then you stop, congratulate the successful individual, and be proud of the hard work that brought you to this stage in the first place.

All of these situations can leave us with the feeling of frustration, anger, or pity for ourselves. But we can’t let the moments of perceived failure define us. It is our recovery and ability to move forward in those situations that should define us. As we move forward through different times in our FFA careers or other areas of our life, we must remember that falling short of success creates a perfect time to practice having respect, even if it is losing the most important political battle we have ever seen. We should forget the grudges and congratulate the Ryan’s out there out of the goodness of our hearts for the work that they have done. Then we should accept the loss and use the hardships to learn a lesson. Analyze the areas that we can be better and create goals that can help us further develop to reach our full potential. Kansas FFA, it is no easy journey; but to be our best we must lose with grace, understand our flaws, and emerge into someone greater.

Karlie Square