Girls State cheered on

South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin's career in politics may have started with Girls State.

When the congresswoman was part of Girls State back in 1988, Herseth Sandlin won over her peers and was named the governor. Herseth Sandlin called the event life changing and has shared her experience with the Girls State participants for the last seven years.

On Thursday, June 3, Herseth Sandlin said she hoped at least some of the girls would one day be another female voice in politics.

"Nothing would make me prouder if in five to 10 years, one of the girls in this room became the next congresswoman," Herseth Sandlin said to the Girls State assembly at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. "We need more women's voices to be heard, and every generation of women's avocation learns from each other."

Herseth Sandlin offered advice for the girls to take home so someday they can be that voice.

She shared four characteristics she has learned from people in the private and public sectors that she has seen change lives.

"Be prepared, ask questions and learn is the first characteristic," she said.

Herseth Sandlin also said they should look out for others, because you will need their help someday.

"Offer each other encouragement and support," she said. "As a representative, I can't do it all on my own. I have tens of thousands of supporters who all work together for a common goal."

Then, Herseth Sandlin said to take action.

"People who take action on the things that matter to them are what inspires me the most," she said. "You can come up with ideas, but if you don't take action, it can diminish what you can do."

The last characteristic she mentioned was to appreciate life.

"Enjoy the journey, and always apply the lessons you have learned in life," Herseth Sandlin said.

She added the best advice she could give the girls was stay in touch, and to help each other in the future.

"When you go home, rededicate yourselves to each other, and for your classmates who weren't selected to come, help them as well," she said. "Be sponges of information because there are many women who want to share information with you."

Herseth Sandlin said when she first ran for Congress, she received a lot of support from the women who were at Girls State with her.

She wasn't the only past governor to talk to the group Thursday.

In 1994, Emily Firman Pieper was looking forward to traveling to Europe, and Girls State was just something that would cut into her time there.

But as Girls State drew closer, Firman Pieper started to get excited for the event. In fact, she was already planning her campaign to become Girls State governor, which she ended up becoming.

Firman Pieper said leadership is a strange thing.

"Leadership doesn't always look for us, but it does find us," she said. "We don't always see how we fit into a leadership role, so we need exposure to the real world to grow into that role, and Girls State really helps provide that."

USD criminal justice professor Dr. Michael Roche was the first speaker of the assembly and told the girls to become a force of nature and to realize the gifts that they have.

He added that preaching is not just in the words you speak, but also in your actions.

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