Herseth: Service brings great reward U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth urges graduates of the University of South Dakota to make a difference in their communities during her commencement address Saturday in the DakotaDome. By David Lias University commencement speakers often are selected based on their education and background � the richer and fuller the better.
In other words, they�re usually getting up there in years � maybe close to retirement � and are selected to impart words of wisdom based on their real world experiences.
Saturday�s University of South Dakota commencement exercises in the DakotaDome stood that tradition on its head.
The keynote speaker at the event, Rep. Stephanie Herseth, is of the same generation of many of the graduates who received their degrees later that morning.
Herseth urged the new grads to go on to rewarding careers in their chosen fields.
�But if I can clarify one thing today, it�s this: the rewards you get from serving your community will far outweigh any amount of money anyone can possibly earn,� she said.
Herseth told the ambitious group of young people that there�s nothing wrong in earning money.
�I hope you all earn a lot of money � perhaps enough to pay off all of those student loans early,� she said. �But the greater reward will not come from what you put into your bank account, but will be the part of you that you give to the world, whether it will be starting a family and making an unwavering commitment to them, or working to solve both local and global problems of hunger, sickness and poverty.
�The more you give of yourself, the closer you get to success and happiness,� Herseth said. �That�s what serving your country is all about. And you don�t have to run for office to be a public servant, but I sure hope that many of you do. To be a public servant, you only need to have a commitment to your community.�
It�s customary to focus on older generations on the local, state and national level to provide leadership, she said.
It�s time, Herseth said, for young people to seek those roles.
�The future of our state and nation depends on the next young generation of leaders,� she said, �which includes all of you.�
Herseth said she knows it can be tough to get involved.
�It�s a leap of faith, sometimes blind faith,� she said. Sometimes making a decision can be tough ? I got involved in public policy and public service because I wanted that impact on our state and our country.
�I believed in my heart that helping people to improve their own lives and making a difference is what good government is all about,� she said.
Herseth noted that USD�s class of 2005 will fill a wide range of roles: educators and scientists, business owners and doctors, artists, accountants and attorneys.
�For each of you, your contribution will mean something different, something unique, something significant,� she said.
The new careers on which the graduates are about to embark, she said, will provide more than a paycheck.
�As you proceed on your journey toward success, you will examine the question of an examination of your character many times,� Herseth said. �I have high hopes on
how that examination of character will go � when you have classmates that have already traveled to the Middle East to visit with world leaders about improving the status of all women, when you have got friends who give up spring break to travel across the country to help America�s poor ? I have high hopes.�
Herseth mentioned one of USD�s best-known graduates, Tom Brokaw, and his best-selling books about the greatest generation, the young men and women who fought in World War II.
They were published shortly after a great deal of attention was paid to Herseth�s generation: Generation X.
�Some commentators described us as apathetic, materialistic and cynical,� she said. �There was talk in the late 1990s and early in this decade that young people simply weren�t prepared to tackle real serious challenges.
�And then 9/11. And everything changed,� Herseth said.
�As we look at the world ahead of us, we see a lot of uncertainty: a new war on terror, an AIDS pandemic in Africa, families on South Dakota�s Indian reservations enduring severe poverty, our small towns struggling to survive.�
Standing behind the podium, addressing audience members about to enter the workforce to contribute their talents to the world, she said, gives her hope.
�I see courage within those of you who have decided to serve our country in uniform, hope in the work you do as doctors and scientists, compassion in the hearts of those who will take on the suffering of others, and a shared sense that you�re all in this world together,� Herseth said.
The challenges facing the world today may seem daunting and overwhelming.
�But they provide you with an opportunity to be the next greatest generation,� Herseth told the graduates. �While there�s no question that the journey will have some difficulties, those challenges and those victories will make your success even sweeter.�