Mr. Chief Justice, honorable members of the Supreme Court, Lt. Governor Rhoden, senators, legislators, constitutional officers, family, friends, and fellow South Dakotans:
I am deeply honored to stand here in this beautiful rotunda surrounded by all of you as we participate in the peaceful passing of responsibility from one Governor to the next.
The oath that I just took is a promise and a commitment to everyone in this state. I promise to govern in a manner that will benefit all people of South Dakota. From Rapid City to Sioux Falls. From Buffalo to North Sioux City. From Pine Ridge to Sisseton. My door will always be open to listen. I believe I have a good sense of where we need to go as a state but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep the dialogue open. I’ve always believed it takes courage to stand and to speak, but it also takes courage to sit down and to listen.
It is a great privilege and a solemn honor to serve as this state's chief executive. It is one that do not take lightly because I believe that, as the Old Testament book of Daniel states, it is our God in heaven who puts leaders into place and it is He that removes them. As an elected leader, one of the most encouraging things that a citizen can do and say to me is, "I'm praying for you." Each and every time, I am encouraged and strengthened by those comments. So from this podium, in this high office today, I ask for your prayers. Keep praying.
Many people have asked me how I want to be remembered as Governor. Well, that's a tough question to grasp and to consider. Like any good farmer or rancher, I get up most mornings before the sun gets up, I put one foot in front of the other and get to the day's work – whether it's feeding horses or negotiating a piece of legislation.
But, as the saying goes, a good way to live is for one to consider what you want said at your funeral and then work back from there. In the same way, the question about how a governor wants to be remembered can serve as a tool to sharpen our focus.
To that end, when this is all over, I want to be a governor for the next generation.
For the next generation. For our kids, our teenagers, our young adults. That is what motivates so many of us, across walks of life – to work that extra shift, to stay up late putting a bicycle together or forgo a new car so we can help pay for their school. Nothing makes my day more than spending time with kids. Nothing motivates me more in public service than solving problems for our next generation.
Now whether it's tackling the meth crisis that is hurting so many families and children, strengthening our schools and strengthening and revitalizing the civic programs in our classrooms, keeping taxes and regulations low, or creating more habitat so that our wildlife will be abundant and we can pass on our hunting traditions to the next generation – the north star that I want to follow with each decision I make as governor is the impact on the next generation. How does this policy, this legislation, this program, impact the next generation of South Dakota citizens?
Our state is in tremendous shape in many ways. We have had the blessing and good fortune of strong leadership at the executive and legislative level in many ways for many, many years. There are policies in place, including our low taxes, low regulation, our business-friendly approach that have served our state well. We have Governor Dennis Daugaard and many leaders in the state legislature to thank for this. Thank you, Dennis, and thank you, legislators. [applause]
That isn't to say there aren't areas where we can improve. In poll after poll, we see data showing that many Americans believe that our greatest days are not ahead of us. That the next generation won’t have the same opportunities that we had. Now that might be the national sentiment, but I won’t let that become a reality here in South Dakota. Not on my watch. We are going to create opportunities for the next generation that will help guarantee that our best days are still ahead of us for us here in this state of South Dakota.
That is why I am surrounding myself with a team that has a mix of leadership experience. They have previous government experience at all levels, public and private sector experience, even military experience. I want to bring the best and the brightest together to help us preserve the core of what makes South Dakota great, while innovating on policy solutions for the next generation. As I look at the team that I have assembled for staff and cabinet, I see faces that know state government. I also see faces that know how other institutions and companies are achieving success and we’ll bring that to bear here, in state government.
There’s one person that I want to talk about specifically. Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden. Thank you so much for agreeing to serve with me, Larry. If you don’t know Larry, he has a strategic mind when it comes to how the legislature works. He knows how to get things done in Pierre. He has a lifetime of experiences on the ranch and in public service that will be extremely helpful as we make decisions. I look forward working with him.
I cannot let this day go by without also commenting on the historic nature of the day. As you may know, this last November 5 was the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in South Dakota. So 100 years and 1 day after this great state extended women the right to vote, they elected the first woman as governor.
Now you know…I never…I talked about gender during the campaign. I offered up my experience and my vision to the people of South Dakota to earn their vote. I did not campaign on my gender. It wasn't an issue, either way, in my mind. I grew up in a family where there no boy chores or girl chores. There were just things that needed to get done. And this sentiment is not new.
On May 29 in 1851, a slave woman from New York, who changed her name to Sojourner Truth, gave a speech at a conference on women's rights. She responded with passion to the argument that women were too weak to be given the right to vote. She gave examples of strength in adversity from her own life. She said that she had ploughed and planted and she had gathered as much as any man that she knew. She also said she could eat as much as any man she had ever met. You know, weakness wasn’t a good enough argument to keep women from voting in her mind. Sojourner Truth was ahead of her time. But we caught up eventually. And now we are celebrating 100 years since the right to vote was extended to women in South Dakota.
So it is a distinct honor to serve as our state’s first woman governor, first and foremost because of the message it sends to our state's girls and young women, but also to boys and young men as well. So to all of you boys and girls out there watching, just remember, anything is possible if you set your mind to it. Find a role model, find a mentor and just go it.
In closing, there's a few special people I'd like to mention. First of all, I would like to thank Governors Farrar, Rounds and Daugaard for being here today. I am thankful for the strong foundation that you have given to this state. I would also like to recognize Don Ackerman. He is a Vietnam veteran – stand up, Don, cause you're a big deal. He's a Vietnam veteran with a very special place in my heart. We have stood together in policy fights – and we won, didn't we? – and I am thankful and grateful for his friendship. Would you please applaud Don for me? [applause] Will all our military men and women, retired and currently serving stand, so you can be recognized and thanked as well? [applause]
As many of you know my role models early in life were my parents. I wanted to grow up and farm and ranch with my dad, as many of you know. But that dream was cut short. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him, about the accident, the life he lived and the example he gave to us kids. The older I get, the more pain and suffering I see around me. The question isn’t if we will endure hardships, it’s when. And how will we respond. How we get up off the floor and find our way forward. I am so grateful that my mother is here with me today, and I do wish that my dad could be here today to see this as well. I can't even imagine what he would say about his daughter being governor. But God has a plan. That loss shaped me and my family. In fact, the fire refined us.
My mom and my siblings and their families are all here. Anyone who's my family – raise your hands quick. There's a lot of them. [laughter and applause] We're kind of a big group. Growing up with all of you made me into the person I am today. Hard work, prioritizing family and community and faith, keeping your head down and staying humble. These are all lessons I learned from my family. For that I am incredibly grateful. And you all have stepped up to help me with the kids, with the ranch, with my duties at home, when I've been away. Thank you, and I love you very much. [applause]
My three children, Kassidy, Kennedy and Booker, have had many unique experiences because of the path of public service we've chosen but they have also had to endure more than any mom would want. So thank you for persevering and for your help. [applause] Thank you also for your good attitudes and your ability to always put a smile on my face. Being a mom might be the title that has the most impact on how we will govern during the next four years; how we improve this state for the next generation.
And of course, my husband Bryon. When he married me, he thought he was marrying a farmer and rancher. He has been the solid rock of our family. Our foundation. He has stepped up when I've been on the road and has been there to listen, at any hour. He is going to make an amazing first First Gentleman. You can count on that. [applause]
I want to thank each and every one of you here today and for those listening at home. Thank you for your interest in our state. Thank you for investing in our future with your time and your talents and your concern. Please, stay engaged. Stay connected. It is my goal to be the most connected Governor our state has ever had. I want to hear from you early and often. Together, we can build on our state’s solid foundation with innovative new policies that will help make South Dakota an example for the nation. For today. And for the next generation.
Thank you. May God bless each of you. And May God bless the great State of South Dakota.
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