Sen. Mike Rounds told the young women participating in the 2019 American Legion Auxiliary South Dakota Girls State program Tuesday the American Legion has developed the program because it knows how important it is for young people to be involved in the future development of the nation.
“You’ve got lots of ideas and what they (the American Legion) want you to do is to feel comfortable with being a part of the decision making process within this country,” he told Girls State delegates Tuesday morning in Aalfs Auditorium on the University of South Dakota campus in Vermillion.
Girls State will be held all week on the USD campus and will conclude Saturday, June. 1.
“The more you learn about the way that our country runs and how we can participate at the national level, at the state level and at local level – the more you feel comfortable with that, the more you are inclined to actually participate,” Rounds said. “That’s what this is all about. It’s to give you a sense of a step up and an opportunity in what you can to make changes in our entire country.”
He told the delegates that they each possess gifts that they likely don’t recognize and he urged them to take advantage of opportunities to share them.
“Think about this for a little bit – time and time again, they (your parents) convinced you to do the right thing, to spend the extra time, to be in class on time – what they were trying to do is coach you along because they believed in you,” Rounds said. “If you think about it, there were times when they probably got a little frustrated with you, if you know what I mean and at the same time they didn’t give up, because they love you.
“There’s something else, as well. They believed in you,” he said. “They understood what you are capable of. I want you to feel the same way. I want you to look back at what your moms and your dads, grandmas and grandpa, uncles, aunts and close friends have said through their support and the beliefs that they have that you’re something special.”
Rounds told the delegates that in future, they can do and be whatever they desire.
“You can compete with anybody at any place in the world,” he said. “Your moms and dads have a lot to do with that. Your teachers have lot to do with that because they provided you with some of the best education that can be found anyplace in the world.”
Rounds told the young women that their presence at Girls State demonstrates they have the ability to work hard.
“You’ve done the hard work to get the grades that you needed to get,” he said. “You’ve prepared yourself for what you need to do. Don’t give up on yourself as things get tougher. Believe in yourself. Recognize that you can compete with anybody else anyplace in the world.”
Employers in South Dakota, Rounds said “grew up with you. They saw you on the street; they saw you the basketball court, the volleyball court; they saw you after the events; they saw you around town and they just assumed that’s the way all kids are – that all young people are just as good and you’re just part of the group.
“But when you go out of state and you go to apply for a job someplace, those employers out of state will immediately recognize just how good you are,” he said. “They’re going to do everything they can to hire you, because they’re going to recognize the qualities that are instilled in you.”
Rounds asked the delegates to not give up on South Dakota.
“In South Dakota, we need you as well,” he said. “By coming back here, you add value to our state. For me, personally, I just want you to know that we value what you have to offer and we know that our state can’t get better unless you decide that you want to be a part of making it better long-term.”
Rounds urged the young women to take what they learn this week to eventually become involved in public service and seek ways to put their knowledge to use.
“Consider an internship. All of us in the Senate and the House – John Thune, Dusty Johnson and myself – we all offer internships,” he said. “We all like it when you intern with us, and we’ve got places where you can intern in Washington, D.C., you can intern in Sioux Falls or in Pierre or in Rapid City. It gives you a chance to see what goes on in our offices.”
He also suggested that they consider serving as pages during the South Dakota legislative session.
“As you move through this process, consider working in a public service job or looking at being elected,” Rounds said. “Some of the toughest jobs to begin with are at the local level. County commissions, school boards, city commissions – that’s where a lot of major decision are made. There are lots of opportunities to get involved, to learn the process and to step forward.
“Don’t be afraid to get involved in the political process,” he said. “Go out and talk to the candidates – that’s something that you can do in South Dakota. A lot of other states, it’s all done on TV and in South Dakota, it’s (campaigning) really not. It’s done face to face with a lot of folks. You can participate in that process and don’t be afraid to get involved.”
Rounds said it’s also important to remember that these opportunities would not be available without the women and men in the military who protect the nations’ freedom.
“Communities have to give support to those individuals who make that commitment,” he said. “Wherever you’re art, part of that commitment is the understanding that it’s not by accident that we’re free or that we get to make decisions ourselves or that we get to vote on a lot of different things.
“Every generation needs to recognize and be prepared to do the hard work to defend that freedom for the next generation,” Rounds said. “I think you’re absolutely capable of doing it … and leave this world better than the way you found it.”
He told the delegates that the decisions they make in the future will have a positive effect.
“You absolutely have all of the gifts, talents and capabilities of any generation that’s ever existed and you can do great things,” Rounds said.