Noem: Say ‘Yes’ To Every Opportunity


Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 1:14 AM CDT

VERMILLION — Rep. Kristi Noem found it fitting to share a story involving her oldest daughter, Kassidy, as she addressed Girls State delegates shortly after the week-long citizenship program was called to order Monday night in Vermillion.

Kassidy is among the young women taking part in Girls State this week on the University of South Dakota campus. She, along with all of the other delegates, gathered in Slagle Auditorium on the University of South Dakota campus to hear Noem, South Dakota’s freshman member of the U.S. House of Representatives, speak.

Before Kassidy’s birth, friends and family held a baby shower for Noem, and at one point, participants were asked to share words of helpful advice to the mother-to-be.

“My grandma said, ‘The only advice that I would have for Kristi would be to say yes as much as you possibly can, because as a mom, so many times you have to say no.’ I have applied that to my entire life since then.

“All of you have so many opportunities in front of you ... I hope that when you see an opportunity in front of you, that you say ‘yes.’ There are so many other times in life when you won’t have the opportunity to say yes,” Noem said. “You’ll find that amazing things will happen to you if you just will say to yourself ‘I’m going to say yes before I say no.’”

At one point during her childhood, Noem knew what she wanted to do with her life: All she ever wanted was to work side-by-side with her dad on the family’s ranch near Castlewood.

“When my dad was killed in accident when I was going to college, everything in my life changed,” Noem said.

Two older siblings were living out-of-state, established in their own careers. Her younger brother was still in high school.

“It was really left up to me to come back, and bring the family together and try to make our farming operation a success following that tragedy,” Noem said. “That’s when I really started to get involved in government, because we were trying to run a business and my dad was only 49 years old when he was killed, and we had a problem right away in paying estate taxes.”

The experience, she said, made her begin to question the role that government should play in serving people.

“I hope that this week, as you go through all of your activities, you’ll say, ‘What is the role of government? What is my role in the city, in the county, within my state, and how can I step up and make sure that this really works for the people?’” Noem said.

Besides ranching, Noem was involved in her family’s other business ventures, which include a hunting lodge and a restaurant. Noem also served four years in the South Dakota Legislature before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last November.

“Serving in this role, as your representative in Washington, D.C., is extremely humbling for me,” she said. “This job is extremely rewarding.”

The role of all levels of government, Noem said, is to serve people, and people “truly need leaders who are willing to say ‘yes’ when it is right, who are willing to look for opportunities and to work hard and find the answers that are needed.

“No matter what challenges you are facing,” she said to the young women, “no matter what’s going to come up in your life, if you can stay positive and approach the situation from that direction, it will serve you much better and I know you will be a huge success in life.”

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