The 2011 South Dakota Girls Staters kicked off their first full day of activities Tuesday with a pair of speakers who stressed the importance of staying involved with all levels of government, from voting to holding public office.
State Attorney General Marty Jackley � an alum of the 1987 South Dakota Boys State � told the audience that they don�t have to �go full-time into public service� in order to make a difference.
�There are a number of opportunities it is incumbent upon you to take, whether it be serving on the school board, serving on the city council, serving in a citizen legislature � those are the things (through which) you have an opportunity to make huge differences in your community. I encourage you to take those opportunities and run with them,� he said.
Jackley began his law career in private practice in Rapid City, but was lured by the pull of public service.
�Sen. (John) Thune gave me a really awesome opportunity to join in public service, and that was the United States Attorney position,� he said.
States Attorneys are appointed by the president based on a recommendation of United States senators whose parties are in power.
Jackley was appointed by then-President George W. Bush, and was elected South Dakota�s attorney general last year.
�As an attorney, I really like what a prosecutor does � helping people, working with people, working with problems,� he said.
During a question-and-answer session, Jackley said that internal conflicts regarding the law arise �all the time� for he and his staff, but that they always remember that they aren�t working to validate their own opinions, but to interpret the law as it is written.
�Certainly, there were some lawyers on my staff who weren�t supportive of the concept that we join the health care lawsuit, with respect to federal health care,� he said. �So, the challenge of the attorney general is knowing that you�re going to have a staff that on many of these controversial political issues on both sides of the fence is to always be open and explain � why we�re going a certain route.
�I always give the lawyers in my office the opportunity to weigh in on particular issues. At the end of the day, we certainly do make decisions in the office that are not really popular among the entire staff,� he said.
Jackley said one of the best ways people can stay involved and enact change for the better is through voting.
�Whether you�re Republican, Democrat or independent, I encourage you to vote and put people in office who can do good things,� he said.
Vermillion mayor Jack Powell agreed, pointing to the ongoing conflicts in countries like Egypt.
�I�m sure that you are aware of the many conflicts in other parts of the world � notably in the Middle East � where people are fighting in the streets for rights guaranteed to us by our constitution. This is especially true for women,� he said. �Among these rights is the responsibility for each of us to participate in our government. We can do this by exercising our right to vote and run for public office. Don�t sit back and let others decide for you. I think it�s a poor commentary that only 4.2 percent of eligible voters voted last week in the Sioux Falls public school election.�
Powell encouraged the attendees of Girls State to utilize the lessons they learn this week in their future careers, whether or not they ever hold public office.
One former Girls State participant he cited as an example was former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who served as Girls State governor in 1988.
�You are the future leaders of our communities, our state, and yes, our nation,� Powell said. �Your unprecedented opportunity to make your voices heard in all areas of government. Set your goals high, and strive to achieve them through your continuing involvement in your schools and communities.�