Friday, October 21, 2011

Lucky Number 7

To say that I was excited for the Seventh General Session of the National FFA Convention would be an understatement. Just look at what was on the schedule; all of the speaking CDE award results as well as the retiring address of my favorite national officer, Western Region Vice President Shannon Norris. So, I guess that it could be said that I was lucky to witness so many sensational happenings in the same session.

But as much as I was prepared for some exciting results as well as an incredible speech from an incredible person, I was totally unprepared for the keynote speaker, Mr. David Garibaldi. As the stage attendants rushed to assemble the backdrop for Galibardi's presentation, the audience stared in awe, wondering why a speaker would need an easel, lots of plastic drop cloths, a DJ, and finally a large white screen that seemed to be splattered with paint. As the DJ finished his set-up, an emcee attempted to pump up the crowd in the arena. He explained with a boisterous voice that Mr. Garibaldi was an artist who painted six-foot-tall portraits of celebrities in just a few minutes. He also mentioned that Garibaldi had raised over $750,000 for charities. I was confused, pumped, and stunned in anticipation.

When Garibaldi took the stage it seemed as if it was the 90's and the Bulls were playing for the NBA Championship, as the lights were low and the noise was loud. And what about Garibaldi's appearance? He was wearing a black shirt and blue jeans covered in paint, with 6 small neon yellow stripes across his chest. He looked wild and crazy. The entire crowd realized that whatever was about to happen would be epic.

Garibaldi introduced himself, instructed the crowd to shake the rafters with noise, and began painting. He didn't just paint with a brush however, he ran around like a maniac and used his hands, multiple brushes, and a   variety of colors. As the painting began to take shape, it appeared to be a man, possibly President Obama. However as soon as Garibaldi painted what appeared to be an earring, it was obvious; we were looking at a portrait of Jason Aldean. Garibaldi finished off his masterpiece with his signature yellow hand print, and turned towards the audience, which screamed with approval and delight. He then began to speak.

Garibaldi told his story. As a youngster growing up in Sacramento, California, David loved to paint. He used this energy and his natural born talent in a negative way however, as he began writing graffiti on anything he possibly could, from train cars to buildings. As some of his friends were getting arrested for vandalizing, he realized that he needed to use his talent in a positive way. He had an epiphany that he could use his ability to help others. Garibaldi then designed a presentation that would be extremely cheap, but could also appeal to the masses. Beginning his career painting in clubs and theaters, his program kept on growing. He made it a goal to raise $1 million for charities by the time he turned 30. David changed his attitude in a positive manner. What if he had never made this decision to change his life? Would he be in jail with a record as a vandal?

Speaking of changing attitudes, that was the topic of Shannon Norris' retiring address. It's funny how the stars seem to align at all the right times. Shannon gave one of the most heartfelt and moving speeches I have ever heard with a simple, but powerful message. She gave the story of an FFA member that was a budding athlete until she was sidelined by a tumor. Although she was heartbroken about losing the ability to play most contact sports, the things she loved, she changed her attitude and moved on, determined to make something of herself that was even greater than the athlete she yearned to be. Shannon also mentioned a simple equation:  Situation + Attitude = Outcome. It means that we cannot typically change what happens to us, but we sure can change the way we adapt to the situation, and create a better outcome for ourselves and those who surround us.

Attitude is everything.

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