By Margaret Barnett, Sacajawea Scroll
U.S. Sen. John Thune encouraged Girls State delegates to find purpose and seize opportunities.
Thune spoke at Wednesday morning’s general assembly in Aalfs Auditorium Slagle Hall, also touching on other topics, such as his start in politics.
Encouraging delegates to get involved in their communities and South Dakota, Thune said to make the most of what delegates have been given.
“Where you think you can make a difference, do that,” Thune said.
His advice included finding purpose and creating a personal mission statement. To explain, he referenced Yohann Sebastian Bach’s purpose and decision to compose music.
Thune referenced Bach’s answer by stating: “For the glory of God and the refreshment of the human soul.”
Thune said this confidence and assuredness is the key to finding one’s passion.
He also said serving something greater than oneself is the essence of being a leader. According to Thune, there is nothing more fulfilling than to put others first, as he believes a leader should.
He said waking up in the morning and thinking about what can be done for someone else will make a difference and lead to success.
When asked by a Minneapolis delegate about how to get involved in politics, Thune discussed multiple outlets but stressed getting involved, wherever you may be.
He mentioned college campuses and student governments as well as building a network in order to start on the road to a career in government. He said taking advantage of resources whether it is the church, school or another community organization are good starting places.
A delegate from Los Angeles asked what Thune was most proud of throughout his years of work. Thune said he was proud to represent South Dakota and was proud of the fourth farm bill, saying that his work in agriculture, South Dakota’s main field of trade, was one of his passions.
He also said he loved working with people on the day-to-day basis. He said he enjoys helping people with problems that would come to him for anything from foreign adoptions to aiding veterans.
When asked about how to make a positive impact, Thune said: “Speak the truth, but do it in kindness.”
He said to listen, which leads to more learning, and to be respectful of the opinions of others.
In regards to a question about gun control, Thune expressed his respect for the Second Amendment and elaborated on changes being made to the background checks required to get a gun. He discussed increased school safety, but also the right by individuals to bear arms.
Some delegates, such as Caitlyn Bargstadt, said they thought it was good that gun laws were getting stricter. Others like Taylor Tarr from Philadelphia, said this wasn’t enough.
Tarr said gun control should be taken more seriously, and her fellow citizens of Philadelphia, Tabatha Hant and Emily Robson, agreed.
“Lives matter more than just recreation,” Hant said.
Overall, Jade Evans and Mackenzie McClemans said they liked that Thune took so many questions and thought he was very informative.
Bargstadt said she thought a job like his was pretty intimidating, and McClemans said she would enjoy the travel.
In regards to Girls State, Thune said he thought it was important for young women to get involved and informed about the government processes. He said South Dakota needs citizens willing to be engaged and serve.
As far as South Dakota’s issues as a whole, Thune said, “I always say, the biggest room in the senate is the room for improvement.”
He said South Dakota can always do better and that workforce issues are a big problem with not enough employees qualified for the required jobs.
Drawing in bigger businesses was another concern he said he wants to work on to keep young people in the state. In the end, however, Thune said he thinks South Dakota does a lot of things well.
Thune grew up in Murdo, S.D. In his adolescence, Thune’s father was a teacher, coach, athletic director and bus driver, and his mother was the school librarian. In 1978, Thune attended Boys State and was a New York delegate.
Thune spoke of his first time meeting a politician after growing up removed from politics in his home. He was a first-year in high school and had a basketball game where he made five out of six free throws.
The next day, a man he didn’t recognize commented on the missed free throw and introduced himself as a state senator. He would later ask Thune to come work in the nation’s capital after he graduated from college.
He spent four and a half years working in Washington D.C. and that was the initial appeal to the job. He was interested in the opportunity, but said wasn’t planning on going into politics yet.
As he worked, he said he found an interest and passion for politics and later got involved in networking for his campaign in South Dakota.