May 04 2012
By Rep. Kristi Noem
Right now in South Dakota, caps and gowns are being pressed, parties are being planned and goodbyes prepared as kids – and many adults – gear up for graduation. My oldest daughter Kassidy will be graduating from high school later this month, but first she’ll help me get ready to cross the stage to get my Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from South Dakota State University.
Folks in South Dakota know that life doesn’t always go the way we planned it, and many can pinpoint one circumstance or another that changed the planned trajectory of their life. For me, it was the death of my dad. When I was 22 and close to finishing school, the man I had idolized my entire life was taken from me in an unexpected accident on the farm. I had to leave school and head home to help run the family business.
I didn’t mind going home since helping run the day-to-day operations on the farm made me feel closer to my father, but I had never planned on not finishing school. I was confident that I would go back to get my degree as soon as everything was in order, but then life happened. I was married and had three wonderful children and expanded the business. School got put on the backburner.
My sister inspired me to get back in the game. She said she was surprised I hadn’t finished because she’d never known me to give up on anything. Like most South Dakotans, I pride myself on finishing what I start. So with a desire to follow-through on what I began almost 20 years before and set an example for my kids, I enrolled in South Dakota State University.
The process wasn’t easy. Juggling family, work and school means a lot of late nights, not a lot of sleep and less time with the people you love. I know I am not alone. A number of South Dakotans have had circumstances derail their life plans, education and otherwise. But since South Dakotans are some of the strongest and most courageous folks I know, these circumstances weren’t seen as dead ends, only new roads for which to follow. To those who have gone back to finish something or start something new, I congratulate you on your courage, perseverance and follow-through.
As graduation season gets into full swing, I also want to congratulate every graduate in South Dakota. No matter your age or stage of life, you’ve accomplished something big. I know that this group of graduates, young and old, male and female, Democrat and Republican, will do great things for our state and nation.
Rep. Kristi Noem is South Dakota’s lone U.S. Representative, elected in November 2010. She serves on the Agriculture, Education and Workforce and Natural Resources Committees.