Gov. Kristi Noem, citing her two daughters as examples, reminded Girls State delegates Thursday that they are in the midst of a life-changing experience this week.
Both of Noem’s daughters attended Girls State and both made life-long friends from their experiences in Vermillion.
Her daughter, Kassidy is getting married this weekend, the governor said, “and she’s got friends that are going to be at the wedding that she met at Girls State. So don’t underestimate the power of being here. A lot of times people talk about their education, their gifts, their talents and they forget the important thing is relationships – that people will change your lives through the relationships you have.”
Noem mingled with the delegates during their lunch break at the Muenster University Center (MUC) at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. She addressed the young women in a dining area of the MUC after they had finished eating.
“What you’re learning here is the ability to weigh in on thoughts, which is what we need,” she said. “I don’t think that people my age should be talking about things that we do for ourselves. I’m a big believer that my first thought should be ‘what can I do to make South Dakota better for my kids, for my grandkids, for the next generation that’s going to take over.’”
Noem said that during the legislative session in Pierre, her staff reviews every bill.
“They fill out a memo that tells me what that bill does,” she said. “They fill out a form that says, ‘if this bill passes, this will happen. If this bill doesn’t pass, this is what will happen.’ And the last question that they have to answer for me is ‘how does this bill impact the next generation?’
“So every single person on my staff is going through that thought process all of the time,” Noem said. “If we sign this into law, what will that mean for the future and for the people who will live here and have jobs and raise their families in South Dakota?”
She noted that a lot of people talk and give speeches about working for a better future. She and her staff do more, Noem said – they take action.
“I want you to know that every day in Pierre, when we’re looking at every policy, we’re thinking about how can we get you the education that you need. How can we get you the job that you need. How can I keep you here in South Dakota because you’re the best and the brightest,” the governor told the delegates. “I don’t ever want you to leave; I’d like to keep you here with me and I’d like to help you be as successful as you want to be and have every dream opportunity that you can have.”
Noem said the world is changing so rapidly that currently, no one knows what jobs will be filled by 65 percent of today’s elementary school students when they reach adulthood.
“Our challenge is to make sure that we are equipping everyone correctly to be prepared for that future,” she said. “So you weighing in on policy and learning to be advocates is incredibly important.”
Noem shared advice with Girl Staters on how to achieve significance.
“A lot of times we think that being great, that being significant, comes from publicity, comes from being on TV, from being in the newspaper, doing something super cool and I just want to remind you that’s not how greatness comes,” she said. “That’s not how people become super-awesome and change the world.”
Social media has a big impact, Noem said, allowing anyone to take a photo, post it and have thousands of people see it within minutes.
“But the worst thing that happens in this country is that many times that comparison that we make – it kills happiness,” she said. “So I’m going to encourage to not compare yourself to anyone else as you go through life. Can you do that? It kills your ability to be fulfilled.”
She talked about hard life lessons she learned from her dad while growing up on the family’s ranch.
“My advice is to just shut the gate,” Noem said. “How many of you have gone out to do chores with a pickup, tractor, whatever, left the gate open to go put a bale of hay in a feeder while thinking ‘I can get out there and put the hay up and get back to the gate before the cows notice that the gate is open.’”
She noted that many times, the cattle do notice the open gate “and the next thing you know, the cows have gotten out. The easiest thing to do after you’re chasing cows for the next hour trying to get them back in is to realize it probably would have been much easier to drive to the gate and shut it. But it was extra work, it took a little bit longer to do, it was hard, you thought you could make it … and it ended up creating much more work.
“The little things that you do in life are the things that are going to set you apart from everyone else,” Noem said. “Shutting the gate. Taking that extra step. Making your bed. Stopping to say thank you to somebody who cleaned off your table. Making sure that you’re thanking that teacher. Most people think a lot about the big things they’ve accomplished and they don’t realize how every single little thing that they do with excellence and with discipline is what’s going to make them successful.”
She also shared advice about the burdens one receives when they allow themselves to be offended.
“We have a world that is addicted to being offended. Would you agree with that?” the governor asked. Many of the delegates indicated they did.
Noem shared statements she heard recently from a pastor, who said, “People are going to throw offenses out at you all of the time. They’re going to throw them out at you and you’re going to decide, as you look at that offense, if you’re going to pick it up and carry it around with you.”
The pastor said, according to the governor, “If you pick up that offense and you carry it, then you’re the one carrying the burden.”
Noem said told the delegates they often may be offended by people who don’t realize what they’ve done.
“You have a choice – when those offenses come, you can pick them up or you can let them lay there and just make a decision, a choice, not to be offended,” she said. “In this day and age, we need more people who are willing to give people grace. We really don’t know what people are going through when those offenses come.”