By Morgan Roberts, Sacajawea Scroll
South Dakota Girls State has come a long way from its beginning in Mitchell, S.D.
The program has been held on the University of South Dakota campus for the last 17 years. With a turnout of more than 300 girls, it shows an incredible drive among young women to participate in politics.
This week of learning, growing and connecting with others began with a tribute to the military. Monday marked the start of the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State and Memorial Day.
After getting acquainted with fellow citizens, participants congregated in Aalfs Auditorium Slagle Hall for the first general assembly. During the evening session, Denny Brendan, S.D. American Legion Vice Commander and veteran, spoke about Memorial Day and the American Legion Auxiliary.
Memorial Day in the United States dates back to the Civil War. The holiday originated in the south following the conflict as a way to remember those who had died. On May 30 1868, the first form of Memorial Day known as Decoration Day was observed.
Lore states that May 30 was chosen for the holiday because it was the only day on which no major battles had been fought.
In 1971, the tradition became a federal holiday. It is now observed the last Monday of May.
Brendan stressed Memorial Day is about the families. While the holiday is used to recognize those who have given everything for their country, it’s also used to pay respects to those whose loved ones have died.
Brendan’s speech recognized the activities of the American Legion in regard to Memorial Day.
“These people work in these communities, you don’t see them, they don’t stand up, and they don’t say we did this. They just do it,” Brendan said.
The ALA boasts 244 posts within S.D. Brendan emphasized the community focus of the organization in everything from providing scholarships to taking care of veterans and their families.
Girls State stands among the programs created by the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary.
“We hope they learn something, said ALA S.D. Girls State Director Cheryl Hovorka.
Coordinators for the Girls State program stress the vital role socialization among citizens plays in the process. Girls State aims to teach young women to involve themselves in their governments.
“Socialization is vital,” said ALA member and first-aid assistant Susie Clyde.
When asked what he hoped girls would get out of the experience Brendan responded: “Participate in the process. Even if you fail you will build some character.”
This same sentiment was echoed among the leaders of the American Legion Auxiliary.