By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PAYSON, Ill. -- Growing up, Kira Eidson remembers listening to her older sisters present the FFA creed.
Their words and their belief in its values left a deep impression on Eidson, who drew on that experience in competitions of her own -- with great success.
Eidson won the National FFA Creed Speaking Career Development Event at this year's 86th National FFA Convention and Expo in Louisville, Ky.
The contest recognizes outstanding FFA members for their ability to present the creed in a competitive setting. Members deliver the creed from memory and respond to three questions -- in front of a convention hall crowd.
"I really didn't mind the crowd," said Eidson, a sophomore at Seymour High School in Payson. "For me, it's easier to speak in front of the stage. I feel like I'm talking to somebody. Just in front of the judges, it becomes a presentation instead of a conversation, and a conversation feels more natural."
Eidson should know after a series of competitions that led her to nationals.
Memorizing and practicing the five-paragraph creed sparked an interest in competing. She squared off against two Payson FFA members, finishing second, to advance to the section contest. She finished second there, advancing to the district competition and again placing second, which sent her to the state competition.
"Only first moves on (from state), so I had to do a lot more studying, a lot more practice to make sure I was good enough to get first," Eidson said. "My goal was to get top three."
Winning the state competition sent her to the national event to compete against 48 other FFA members. The preliminary round and semifinals, both on Halloween, turned into a treat for Eidson, who made it to the top 16 and then the final four with outstanding stage presence and perfect recitation.
Eidson said each presentation was different.
"I'll never be one who is overly dramatic or has scripted out hand gestures, facial gestures," she sad. "All I had to do was get up there and talk. I wanted to be natural, and when you believe in it, it's easy to be natural."
The hardest part, Eidson said, was being prepared for the question part of the competition.
"I had watched presentations of creed speakers from past years, so I kind of knew the general type of question they would be asking, but I didn't know what they would be asking," she said. "I had to do a lot of research, a lot of memorizing, a lot of study to have an answer."
The questions targeted advancements in agriculture, changes needed in the industry, and issues tied to the creed.
One question proved easy for Eidson to answer: Who does your happiness depend on?
She named her dad and FFA adviser, Barry Eidson.
"I talked about how cool it was to come into his class and spend 45 minutes working to be the best leader and FFA member," Eidson said. "His happiness depends on me, seeing me grow and achieve in the FFA program."
Barry Eidson was pleased with the answer -- and the performance.
"Even to get through the state was pretty nice," Barry Eidson said. "Every time she presented, she just got better. I'm very proud as a teacher and a father."
Now she hopes to build on her competition experience by participating in prepared public speaking, then take those skills from her FFA experience onto college and a career in print journalism.
"The FFA is really important because of all the opportunities that come through it," she said. "The creed represents the organization and who we as ag are supposed to be. It's something I believe in and second nature for me to say it."
FFA and the creed
• The FFA Creed was written by E.M. Tiffany and adopted in 1930 at the third national convention of the organization, originally the Future Farmers of America.
• The creed was revised at the 38th and 63rd conventions.
• FFA has 557,318 student members in 7,498 local chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.