Time in South Dakota is an opportunity to listen

Time in South Dakota is an opportunity to listen Guest Commentary By Sen. John Thune The times when the U.S. Senate is out of session give me the opportunity to travel extensively in the state and gather valuable input from South Dakotans regarding their views on various matters. The time I have spent in South Dakota in October and November has been particularly informative and valuable. For instance, I was fortunate to visit Aberdeen's VA Outpatient Clinic in October where I had the opportunity to hear about the current and future needs of the veterans' health care system. On Veterans Day, I was also honored to present World War II veteran Carroll E. Peterson with the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart at a ceremony hosted by the Disabled American Veterans in Sioux Falls. These long overdue medals were for Mr. Peterson's valiant service and sacrifice. Like veterans, teachers and students have much insight to share with political leaders. I enjoyed the opportunities to speak to students at schools throughout South Dakota, including a visit to Clark Junior-Senior High School where students were learning what good citizenship is all about. The national interest in the recent election was not lost on any of the students I met, and I was impressed with their curiosity in civics and current events. I also enjoyed a very informative visit to Flandreau where I was honored to meet with members of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribal Council. I underscored my efforts to improve education and health care for South Dakota's tribes, as well as much needed projects to improve infrastructure and economic development. While in Flandreau, I also had the great privilege of helping serve the annual Thanksgiving meal for the tribal elders of the Flandreau Santee Tribe. I was most impressed with the spirit of community and respect that was so clearly on display. Earlier in the Congressional work period, I had the great privilege of attending the dedication of the Sanborn Central School District's Wind for Schools Program, which will help spur interest in wind energy among South Dakota students and inspire them to pursue future careers in clean energy production. I believe that South Dakota's future is especially bright because of the great potential we have for alternative energy development. Biofuels are already an important part of our state's economy, and I believe we are well positioned to move into a real leadership role in second-generation biofuels production. Similarly, the potential for wind energy development in South Dakota is unrivaled. I believe that one of the most important functions of a U.S. senator is to take the views and lessons gathered in the state back to Washington. I appreciate the opportunity to listen, and as always, I encourage South Dakotans to contact my offices, both in South Dakota and in Washington, with comments and opinions. I believe that there are exciting opportunities for us all to work together in the future to make South Dakota safer and more prosperous, and I am looking forward to it as we approach the start of a new session of Congress.

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