Thune: Excellence, commitment, service define personal success

Too often, people define success by the amount of money they make, or the amount of possessions they have, or even by fame.

U.S. Sen. John Thune addresses delegates to Girls State Tuesday evening in Slagle Auditorium on the USD campus in Vermillion. (Photo by David Lias)

I dont think success is about that at all, Sen. John Thune told delegates to Girls State Tuesday night in Slagle Auditorium on the USD campus. My observations, in the years since I was your age, of the people who really define success all share three key ingredients.

Successful people, according to Thune, are committed to excellence.

When you talk about excellence, a lot of people confuse it with perfectionism, and if youre someone who is a perfectionist, youre probably going to be somewhat frustrated in life because things dont always turn out perfectly, he said. Excellence is not about the end product or the result. It has a lot to do with the process; its making the most out of what youve been given.

He encouraged the delegates to use their unique set of characteristics, of gifts, to help make the world a better place. Excellence is making the most out of those, and putting them to their highest and best use, to really have an impact.

A commitment to a life of character is also common, Thune said, among people who are truly successful.

Character is all about the kind of person you are, he said. Its the qualities that you possess. I think it comes down to issues like honesty. Do you play by the rules? Do you respect other people, even those with whom you disagree? Do you take responsibility for your actions and the choices that you make? Accepting responsibility for the choices and the decisions that we make are a sign of personal character.

Being a person of character, the senator told the young women, may cost some people a certain level of popularity among their peers.

You are going to be faced with temptations throughout your lifetime to do it the easy way, to bend the rules, to do things that you know you shouldnt do, Thune said. Being a person of character means having the courage to stand up and do the right thing no matter what the consequences.

For one to be successful, one must also be committed to a life of service.

Service can be a lot of different things. You can serve people in a lot of different ways, he said. Sometimes, it may be helping an elderly people in your neighborhood with yard work or shoveling their sidewalk. Or you may help a younger sibling or a classmate or a friend who is having a bad day. There are so many ways you can serve.

To truly be committed to service means being willing to serve causes that are greater than yourself, Thune said. So oftentimes in life, we get preoccupied with us. Thats not what its all about. Its about what we are doing to impact the world around us, how are we serving God, how are we serving our community, how are we serving the people around us every single day?

Thune also took time to answer questions from the delegates. He was asked why Congress feels it needs to fix the federal budget.

We are spending so much money, we are literally bankrupting the next generation, and youre the ones who are going to pay for this, he said. We as a nation are borrowing $4 billion every single day, and at some point we have to pay it back.

Failure to bring federal spending under control, Thune said, would mean upcoming generations of Americans would experience a lower standard of living and a lower quality of life than previous generations.

The federal budget deficit also ultimately means fewer job opportunities for younger Americans, he said.

When governments continue to spend at the level that were spending today, and when we have the amount of debt that we have today, Thune said, it deprives the opportunity for a lot of people to get a job out there in a struggling economy. We want to get Americans back to work, and we want to get our federal spending under control.

A delegate asked the senator if the sometimes-rocky relationship between Republicans and Democrats hurts the governing process in the U.S. Senate.

I think right now there are deep disagreements on how best to solve problems, Thune said. Most political debates are an expression of somebodys values and differences in philosophy.

Right now, there are very sharp differences on how to best direct and lead the country, he said. At the end of the day, the country has got to function, and we have to be able to work together in a democracy to get things done. Right now, the political differences, the polarization in Washington between Republicans and Democrats is making it difficult to get things done.

I still believe that if the American people want to see people work together and get things done, and they express it loudly and vocally enough, that it will happen, Thune said.

Girls State will continue on the USD campus all of this week, and is scheduled to conclude late Saturday morning.

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