ORLANDO, Fla.—Wallace "Bubba" Bass, this year's Youth Leadership Council spokesman and a member of
Central Electric Power Association in Carthage, Mississippi, delivered the following remarks on March 12 at NRECA's Annual Meeting:
I need everyone to imagine a world without electricity! Yes, right now!
Close your eyes, if you have to. Imagine no cellphones, no internet, no lights and no air conditioning.
You know what, just stop, because you can't.
See, we are surrounded by technology, innovation and happiness.
Electricity is one of the greatest technological innovations of humankind. One cannot think of a world without electricity.
But I am here to tell you that most of our great-grandparents thought it, dreamed it and lived it.
Because as late as the mid-1930s, nine out of 10 rural homes were without electric service.
And nothing was done about this ... nothing was done until a wise man said, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those for have little."
That man was none other than President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
And on May 11, 1935, he signed executive order number 7037 establishing the Rural Electrification Administration.
Let there be light! The word light can be defined in two ways.
The first definition of light states the natural agent that stimulates sight. The second definition of light states the understanding of a problem or mystery; enlightenment.
So, let there be light physically where 99 percent of our nation's rural areas today have electric service. That's nothing short of a miracle and a testament to the generations before us who made it happen.
Let there be light mentally ... where a lightbulb went off in the minds of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association establishing the Washington Youth Tour.
I would like to take this time to thank the NRECA and everyone who played a part in developing the Washington Youth Tour. I would also like to thank my co-op, Central Electric Power Association down in Carthage, Mississippi, where the illustrious manager is Mr. Brian Long, along with the phenomenal board of directors.
This was the opportunity of a lifetime and what Roald Dahl, the author of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," would call my golden ticket. I am truly thankful.
The Youth Tour has had a huge impact on my life; for starters, it was my very first time flying and my first time visiting Washington, D.C.
Many of you may have flown a million times, but for me, it was my very first time ever stepping on an airplane. I was a small boy, from a small town, with a big heart, in an even bigger city. So, of course, I was ready to soak in any and everything D.C. had to offer.
Everything was incredible, from the tour of the Capitol, to my first-ever major league baseball game!
And of course, to the awesome friends that I have made who I'm pretty sure have become my lifelong friends.
Having the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the nation's finest politicians has changed my whole idea about politics.
It has inspired me to double major in mechanical engineering and political science. I, too, have a dream of one day becoming a fine politician.
I can remember standing outside of the White House for the very first time. It gave me a sense of pride, and courage, and a realization that I had never come to before.
Yes, let there be light mentally!
In my mind, I can remember the stories of my great-grandfather, as a sharecropper to feed his family of 14 children.
Yes, I said 14 children! He would work so hard and many countless hours to provide, that he would go through many pairs of shoes.
And when he came across a pair that were so torn up, and so unwearable, he would put them up for display in the house. And when people asked why he did that, he would say: "Those shoes represent the hard work, the strength, the energy, the sacrifice, and even the tears that were put into the shaping of our family.
"And even though they are torn, they are still some big shoes to fill. And over time our family will began filling those shoes, one foot at a time, one generation at a time."
I thought I understood it, but I never really understood it until that moment, standing outside of the White House.
See, metaphorically, my grandfather is like our founding fathers.
They left the nation with some big shoes to fill. And just like my grandfather said we would, our family began filling those shoes, just as society did.
One foot at a time, one generation at a time.
And I am before you today standing upon my grandfather's shoulders as I am still filling those same shoes.
And we need young leaders now more than ever so that we can continue to stand on the shoulders of our founding fathers and continue filling those same shoes.
As Michelle Obama said, "There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, and so much history yet to be made." That means that today's youth are the future, but are still responsible for the history in the making.
President Roosevelt said, "We can not always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future."
And that is what the Youth Tour did for me, for us, and will continue to do for years to come.
Thank you again Youth Tour for the light that inspired me—as well as the other young leaders—to go back to our communities and make a difference. That inspiration will not just affect our nation but everyone around the globe.
So, let there be light physically where we will continue to make history...
...let there be light mentally when we think of how we will fill those shoes.
And let's continue to walk in those shoes together.
Let's light up this world. Thank you!
video of Bass' address.
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