Be bold. Be brave. Be you.

Advice on overcoming obstacles in ag advocacy.

Amanda Radke addresses FFA students at the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic. (Submitted photo)

I recently spoke about this message to a group of FFA kids at the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic. During my hour with the 200-plus students dressed in their iconic blue corduroy jackets, we covered a lot of ground — agricultural advocacy, social media branding, debunking misconceptions about beef and what opportunities are available for young people in the agricultural industry.

After my presentation, I asked the kids if they had any questions for me. And probably the best question I received was this: What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in your career?

Oh boy, what a doozie! I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that one because it’s been a long grind to get to where I’m at now. There’s been lots of trial and error, plenty of failures and constant personal growth where my weaknesses, short-comings and failures have become abundantly self-evident.

But ultimately, I think I’ve finally found my groove doing what I love and being a voice for America’s farmers and ranchers — it feels like important work, and I’m very passionate about preserving this way of life and protecting our freedoms to farm and to eat the foods we like.

In thinking about all of this, I wondered to myself, how can I sum up just one obstacle I’ve faced over the years in my agricultural communications business?


And I realized, that maybe there wasn’t just one failure to share. Instead, maybe there was something that plagues us all at different stages in our lives — worrying about what other people think.

Do we value the opinions of those who really aren’t part of our inner circle of friends and family? Do we stop short of speaking boldly about something we are passionate about? Are we sometimes afraid to do something different? Do we let the thoughts or comments of others slow us down in our own pursuits?

I love the saying, “Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business,” and I reminded the kids of exactly that in my response.

There are many opportunities for growth these young people can pursue in FFA, but if they let the fear of being “different” stop them from chasing their dreams, then are they really being true to themselves? Are we letting the bullies and the “mean girls” win?

That’s how I answered that question to the FFA kids in attendance. I told them to never sell themselves short or lower their expectations for what they are doing because someone else doesn’t think they are qualified enough, talented enough, smart enough or seasoned enough.

Because at the end of the day, it isn’t our detractors who matter, it’s the person in the mirror who counts the most. If we are following our hearts and boldly going where our passions take us, let the critics talk! It’s just chatter from the cheap seats!

These may be simple musings from someone who is tired of all the hate mail, but I think we need to encourage our youth, and perhaps ourselves, too, to be proud of who we are and to be brave in where we are going. The famous speech from President Teddy Roosevelt comes to mind, and I’ll close this column with his words:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


To this agricultural community and the young people who may be reading this column: Be bold, be brave, be you, and the rest, my friends, will fall into place!

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