Upson lecturer speaks about leadership in agriculture


Dr. Leon Barringer, commander of the 932nd Medical Group in the United States Air Force and large animal veterinarian, spoke for the 15th annual Upson Lecture at Manhattan’s Hilton Inn on Monday.

Barringer spoke about leadership, finding your “why” and what makes agriculturalists stand for the flag rather than kneeling. He highlighted the morals and values of rural people, calling them “hardworking.”

“All of the outstanding special operators that I have known come from a rural background,” Barringer said. “All of them.”

Barringer related taking a knee during the national anthem to quitting, and he said agriculturalists do not quit because their brains are not wired to quit.

“This idea that as soon as we are challenged, we quit — it doesn’t work as an agriculturalist,” Barringer said.

Jessica Cardinal, junior in architectural engineering, said a sense of community also plays a role.

“Agriculturalists stand for the flag because it gives them a sense of community around the nation,” Cardinal said.

Barringer also spoke on the things that give him purpose in life: his “how” and his “what,” which drives the “how.”

“When you define your ‘why,’ you will start to walk towards excellence,” Barringer said.

Barringer’s “why” is his grandson, and his “what” is doing his part now so that when his grandson grows up, he can have the tools and resources to feed and sustain the world.

Leadership was a key component of the lecture. Barringer said the world does not need multiple leaders, rather, the world needs people willing to follow a leader and make a movement. The leader is not always the most important person in a movement, but the first follower is, Barringer said.

Jordyn McMillan, sophomore in apparel marketing, said she attended the lecture because her interest was piqued by its title: Why Do Agriculturalists Stand for the National Anthem?

“I came in thinking I was going to listen to a speech about politics and football teams, and I left inspired to be a better leader and search for my ‘why,’” McMillan said.