South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard: “Be engaged. Be the government. Be the leaders.”
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South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard: “Be engaged. Be the government. Be the leaders.”

By Jasmine Snow, Sacajawea Scroll

Aalfs Auditorium Slagle Hall shook with applause after South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard urged Girls State delegates to show their appreciation for the American Legion Auxiliary, counselors and all who lent to the experience of ALA South Dakota Girls State.

Daugaard spoke at general assembly Friday morning and Girls Staters were not hesitant to show their excitement. He commended the delegates for their time here.

“That (participation in elections and time during Girls State) is certainly a great way to begin your exercise as citizens of this republic,” Daugaard said. “We have a representative democracy in America. It only works if you’re engaged.”

His speech was heavily structured around civic engagement and involvement.

“The reality of the world is that our communities are run by people who show up,” he said. “Don’t wait as long as I did . . . There are too many people in South Dakota and in the nation who do not engage.”

Daugaard offered pointed advice as to how the delegates could best engage in citizenship.

“Don’t be silent,” Daugaard said. “Be engaged. Be the government. Be the leaders. You have the qualities and the character to do that.”

His speech was split into two main messages. The second, he said, was centered on South Dakota.

He went on to emphasize the benefit of staying in South Dakota, both as a post-high school student and a working adult. He recognized the urge young people have to go out in the world and discover.

He talked about his own time at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago and how much he missed South Dakota while he was gone.

“It was great experience,” he said. “But after a while, you start to miss the things that are valuable about South Dakota.”

When talking about his tenure in office, Daugaard seemed proud of what he had been able to accomplish.

“South Dakota’s budget was upside down,” he said. “A gap was opening up between the revenue we were bringing in and the spending we were doing . . . The very year I was elected, we had six months before the money would run out.”

But money didn’t run out. Daugaard said the budget he campaigned with passed and cut enough from the original budget to keep South Dakota afloat.

Among his successes, Daugaard also spoke of some regrets as he will leave his governor’s office.

“First, methamphetamine is a scourge that’s really arisen in the last several years,” Daugaard said. “I didn’t see it coming. I think none of the Mid-western states saw it coming to the degree that it has come.”

He also talked of the decline of the quality of South Dakota surface water.

“I really enjoyed his speech. Of course I liked it because it was a little bit shorter and he left time for questions, but it was actually a really good thing to wake up to, I guess,” said Aubree Berreth, a delegate from New York.

Daugaard also talked about how he, in his position, empowers women.

“(I) try to set an example with many women on my staff,” he said. “The best way to empower women is to empower all staff and treat women equally with the men.”

Other delegates enjoyed the speech as well.

“I honestly loved it; I kind of fan-girled over it,” said Monique German, a delegate from Seattle. “I believed in what he said, but I haven’t decided between Republican or Democrat yet.”

Sophia Vyborny also enjoyed the speech.

“I thought that he was very engaging with the audience, and I liked his in-depth descriptions and the various topics that he went off on,” said Vyborny from Seattle.