Herseth Sandlin gives address, fields questions at Girls State

Herseth Sandlin gives address, fields questions at Girls State By Deanna Johnson
Yankton Media, Inc. The opening night of South Dakota Girls State in Vermillion featured an address from Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who also fielded some serious questions posed by the attendees. Herseth Sandlin was greeted Monday night, June 1, by a standing ovation in the ballroom of the Muenster University Center on the campus of the University of South Dakota by the Girls State attendants before getting down to business. One member of Girls State asked Herseth Sandlin if she thought the democratic system used by the United States was the best form of government and what role should the United States take in helping other countries without a democratic system in place. Herseth Sandlin said she thought the U.S. democracy was "far and away the best form of government. "I think the United States has demonstrated throughout its history that it's not just military might and pressuring countries to adopt democratic reforms," the South Dakota Democrat said. "It is representing abroad what the United States is: opportunity, freedom of speech, freedom of the press." When asked about the economy, Herseth Sandlin said she thought the road to recovery would be a "sluggish" one and would not happen quickly. She then encouraged the girls in the audience to do their part to help the economy by using more energy-efficient methods to save themselves and their families the money that could then be spent to help stimulate the economy. Herseth Sandlin also stated that she is often asked why there aren't more women in public service. She said women need encouragement to grow and pursue such careers. She said she would not have run for Congress if she had not been supported by those closest to her. "It takes the encouragement of a friend or a neighbor to water the seed that gets planted at places like Girls State," Herseth Sandlin said. "It's the encouragement, especially of other women, that gets women involved in public service." Herseth Sandlin said returning to Girls State to speak was important to her because she remembered being motivated by the speakers when she attended Girls State in 1988. "Having inspiring women speakers come and speak — and when you can see a commitment to public service — I think it expands the wealth of opportunities, or opens the mind even further to what's possible, if you make the most of this experience," she said. A broadening of the mind was a main theme in Herseth Sandlin's speech, during which she encouraged the Girls Staters to use the week as an opportunity to expand their horizons. "When you're here, you're all Girls Staters and you need to think big. It's about exposing yourself to the possibilities," she said. Herseth Sandlin expressed the importance of state and national affairs on the girls in attendance and reminded them that they would inherit a world created by the choices made in government today. "I implore you to keep up on what's happening in Washington, DC because it affects all of you. We're investing in your future," Herseth Sandlin said. Jina Waggoner, a senior at Wessington Springs High School, said she was honored to hear the congresswoman speak. "It shows that women do have a say in what happens," Waggoner said

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