Back in the 1990s, on this very page, we touted a young man from Midway High School who had recently been named president of his school’s Future Farmers of America chapter. We talked about how well grounded he was; how devoted he was to his family, his school, his community, his church and his friends; how impressive he was as a public speaker; and we noted his wit, his wisdom and his humility.
Even at a young age we saw something special in Ray Starling. And as we followed him through high school and into roles as a national FFA vice president, a national FFA officer on the college level, and eventually as general counsel and ag policy adviser to the state’s Speaker of the House, we witnessed the growth of a remarkable young man whose successes mirrored his hard work and determination to always be the very best he could be.
That’s why it came as no surprise earlier this week to learn that Starling, who had moved on to Washington and was serving as Sen. Thom Tillis’ chief of staff, had been given a strategic role in the Trump White House doing what he does best — providing wisdom on all things related to agriculture. This time it happens to be giving that advice to the President of the United States.
His official title will be special assistant to the President for Agriculture, Trade and Food, a role that gives Sampson County, North Carolina and the nation’s farmers a tremendous advocate who understands what it takes to work the land and what is needed by those who tend it.
All of Sampson is beaming with pride today over Starling’s latest achievement, rooting for the hometown boy who has never once forgotten his roots nor shied away from giving credit for his success to his faith in God, his family, his teachers and people in his community who helped mold him into the man he has become.
Since we broke news of Starling’s latest role on our web site and Facebook page, dozens upon dozens of our followers — and his — have shared the announcement and made comments about the Midway High graduate that all like and respect, yet another testament to the kind of individual Starling has always been.
For his part, Starling remains humbled by and appreciative of the accolades, and always quick to turn the spotlight on those he credits for his success, something easily noted in comments he made to this newspaper in a Wednesday front page story about his new role in the Trump Administration.
“It is humbling. It is extremely gratifying. I would not be here were it not for the community that I came from,” Starling was quoted as saying.
Words like that, which we know come from his heart, only endear Starling more to us and, we are sure, to the Sampson community which helped to raise the young man.
Having followed Starling’s career and his success, we know he will do well in his new job, and we are certain agriculture will have a champion like its never had before.
Sen. Richard Burr was correct in his assessment that Starling has a deep understanding of the agriculture industry. He learned much of it out in the fields near Clement, where he worked alongside his family tending the crops they raised each year. He also learned it through his continual involvement with the FFA and at the state Department of Agriculture, where his love of agriculture grew and his understanding of the broader needs expanded.
Starling is not a run-of-the mill politician. He’s a man with deep convictions, a true love of country and just as great a love for agriculture, just exactly the kind of human being we need advising the president on such all-important matters.
We are thrilled for Starling’s success, thankful he was selected and proud of the young teen turned man we remember with the mischievous smile and the infectious laugh who cared so much for his community.
We were proud of Starling then; we are even prouder of him today.