By Travis Gulbrandson
Gov. Dennis Daugaard had some advice for the attendees of the 67th annual South Dakota Girls State: Get involved.
“You’re here because you have been identified by your school as the best,” the governor said during a presentation Friday morning. “I hope you will recognize that as something that should encourage you to see yourself as a leader, and see yourself as having the potential to become involved in your communities and in public service.”
Daugaard acknowledged that this message is not a new one, particularly in commencement speeches where the orator encourages the audience to “dream big.”
“We hear that so often that we sometimes drift off … but I do think that it’s especially relevant to this audience, to you, because you are the best and brightest young women that we have in South Dakota,” Daugaard said.
He added that much as made of those who achieve great things despite obstacles, be they economic, social or personal.
Daugaard told the audience that while most of these obstacles are out of their control, the biggest one they face is often in their own head.
“What we believe we’re capable of is probably the greatest constraint on our ability to achieve,” he said. “So, I encourage you to recognize that and refuse to be constrained, refuse to let those self-doubts or your beliefs about what might be possible for your own life. Don’t let them hold you back.”
A former Boys Stater, Daugaard said that if someone asked him when he was a teen if he would ever be governor of the state, he would have told them, “No way. I could never do that.”
“We tend to think of other people as the doers in the world, even those of us who have achieved,” he said. “We still tend to think of other people as being those who can achieve elective offices or economic success or community leadership roles, and really, there is every reason why you should see yourselves as that future governor, or that future mayor, or community leader, or high school superintendent – whatever your aspirations are.”
You do not have to be the leader, either, to be successful, Daugaard said – you just have to be “productive and outstanding.”
“You just have to decide what it is you want, and go get it, because you have the qualities that allow you to achieve almost anything you choose,” he said.
Daugaard alluded to this sense of achievement later in his presentation, when he was asked what he thought were the biggest accomplishments of his term as governor.
One of those he listed was the state’s response to flooding along the Missouri River two years ago.
“That was so dramatic and so quickly upon us without much warning that it was a mad scramble to get levees built downstream of Gavins Point, where we are here, and downstream from the Oahe Dam near Pierre and Fort Pierre,” Daugaard said. “There were hundreds of homes damaged, and some destroyed, but there were thousands of homes that did get protected successfully by our response to build those levees.”
The governor added that the response was not only received from the state itself, but from ordinary people who got involved to help each other during a time of crisis.
“As the water was rising, South Dakotans rose higher, and I was very proud to be governor of our state and see the volunteer work, neighbor helping neighbor and the strangers helping citizens,” Daugaard said.