Sen. Mike Rounds usually addresses Girls State delegates in person, but Tuesday morning he had to resort to speaking to them via a pre-recorded video message.
His schedule wouldn’t allow him to travel to Vermillion and meet one-on-one with delegates at the 2021 session of Girls State in Aalfs Auditorium in Slagle Hall on the University of South Dakota campus.
An aide to the senator, Rebecca Herman, traveled from Rounds’ Sioux Falls office to field questions following the video presentation.
“The American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary have been doing this year in and year out and I really do have to say thank you to them because they make a difference,” Rounds said in his pre-recorded message, “and they’re doing this without anything in return except to try to make South Dakota a better place.”
He noted that all of the delegates in the audience have worked hard, have been successful, have received good grades and have been selected to attend Girls State because they have worked hard to get things done.
Rounds urged the young women to remember that their parents and their teachers also have worked hard to make sure they have opportunities and have the discipline to do more than just listen, but to also participate in an educational program.
“Your mom and your dad gave you that love,” the senator said. “They really wanted you to feel good about yourself. They want you succeed. They never quit on you. Now, if you’re like most of us, you were probably characters at some time as well, but your mom and your dad never forgot what they wanted and that was for you to have a bright future.
“They never quit on you and I request to you today is never quit on yourself,” Rounds said. “Always believe in yourself. Know that you are capable of getting things done. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.”
He told the young women that there will be tough days awaiting them in the future.
“But never quit on yourself,” Rounds said. “You see, in South Dakota we produce some of the best young people anyplace in the world. You’re proving that you really are the best of the best and I just want you to feel comfortable in knowing that you can go out and you can challenge yourself, you can make something of yourself, but never quit on yourself.”
The senator also asked the delegates to consider staying in South Dakota.
“If you leave, come back,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t leave and go out and see the world, but there’s always room back here in our state for you.”
Rounds told the delegates they’ll likely hear that wages are better in other states than in South Dakota.
“What really counts is how much you can make with the wage you make and then what the cost of living is here in South Dakota,” he said. “The other thing is we have some advantages here. In South Dakota, we’re made up of a lot of small companies which means that in many cases you can advance more quickly.
“You’ll do a lot of different jobs, but you’ll get background in them as well, which I think leads to things that are better long-term – to get more experiences, to be challenged in different areas and so forth.”
The senator noted that some of the delegates may want to seek out a career in public service.
“Put yourself in positions where you can afford to do so. Be successful in business. Have a career,” Rounds said, “and when the time comes, take some time to come back. The American Legion Auxiliary members are there. They’re giving back. They’re doing public service.
“It doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be elected to do it,” he said. “You can still find ways to participate to make this place better. But public service is important. If you get into a business, if you get into a profession, consider looking at school board,” he said. “Consider looking at county commission or city commission or the Legislature or state-wide elected office or nation-wide elected office.”
Rounds urged the delegates to “leave this world better off than when you entered it.
“I think that’s something that all of us should strive to do,” he said. “You can do it in any way that you want to. Remember, your mom and your dad worked hard; they gave you an opportunity for education. Your teachers worked hard to make sure that you got that education.”
Rounds told the young women that their future employers are also going to expect something from them.
“When it’s all said and done, for the next generation, make sure that you do things here that leave this world better off than when you entered it,” the senator said, “and in doing so, you’ll feel better about yourself. You’ll feel better about your life.”
It’s important, he said, to work toward success.
“It simply means that you feel that the work that you’ve done has made a difference,” Rounds said. “You truly can make a difference if you decide that you want to leave this world better off than when you entered it.”