By Travis Gulbrandson
Live your life as if you’re driving without the emergency brake compressed.
This was among the advice Rep. Kristi Noem had for the attendees of the 67th annual South Dakota Girls State, whom she met during a presentation in Aalfs Auditorium Thursday morning.
“For a lot of us, we have our emergency brakes on our lives,” Noem said. “Maybe you’re feeling really insecure, maybe you think you’re not a very good public speaker. I’m not a good public speaker … but I realized (people) really just want to hear what’s on your mind and in your heart, and have you state it to them like a normal person.”
Self-doubt is the most common of these “emergency brakes,” she said.
“What I want to encourage you (to do) today in your mind and in your heart, when you leave here, that you take your emergency brakes off and stop letting them control you, slow you down, make life more difficult … so that you can take advantage of all the other opportunities that you’re going to have,” she said.
Noem said that just saying “yes” to those opportunities is a big part of living a successful life.
“When you see an opportunity in front of you, don’t ask yourself why you should do it,” she said. “I want you to ask yourself, ‘Why would I not do that?’ Say yes to it. So many times people miss opportunities and don’t grab them when they’re in front of them, and I don’t want you to ever turn around and look at a situation and see it was a missed opportunity that you should have jumped on.”
One of the opportunities that Noem took was going into politics, an idea she first considered when her father died and her family was taxed on his assets.
“I got mad. I couldn’t figure out how we had a law in this country that said because I had a tragedy in my family … that all of a sudden I owed the federal government thousands and thousands of dollars,” she said.
Noem was initially elected to the state legislature, and ran for assistant majority leader after two years.
“It was very scary to stand up in front of all (my) colleagues after only being there for two years and saying, ‘I’m going to run for this position,’” she said.
It was another “nerve-wracking” opportunity, Noem said.
“You find out what people really think about you,” she said. “There’s nothing more informative than putting your name on a ballot.”
Noem was elected to Congress in 2010, a race she said she embarked upon because she thought there should be more “everyday people” in Washington.
“I realized that we don’t necessarily need people who give good speeches. We don’t necessarily need people that know how to shake a lot of hands making the laws in this country,” she said. “We need everyday normal people who are willing to stand up for what’s right and what’s wrong serving in those positions.”
She encouraged all of this year’s Girls Staters to take an active role in the political process, citing the most recent election tallies that found more than 50 percent of the vote came from women.
“It’s not that women have totally different issues. … It’s just that we look at things differently,” Noem said. “We have a different perspective, and if more than 50 percent of the people in this country who are placing the votes are women, we’ve got to have some women who represent their perspective.”
Even if they do not run for office, Noem said, they can find other ways to serve.
“I think it’s critically important that everybody be engaged in that entire process. … We have a lot of things that we have to get done in this country, and we’re going to have a lot of tough people step up to the plate and do the tough jobs to get it done, and I know that a lot of them are here in this room,” she said.