I was recently back in Murdo, the small town of around 500 people, right off I-90 – my hometown. Being home is always a trip down memory lane. When I think back to my childhood, my first memories are of my parents, Pat and Harold Thune, and of growing up with my three brothers and sister. And boy, we were lucky kids to have my parents at the helm.
My mom was a wonderful, loving, eternally optimistic mother, who spent most of my growing up years as our high school librarian. She was responsible for making sure we Thune kids got some culture – whether we wanted it or not. She insisted that we all learn to play the piano, encouraged me to join the swing choir, and in the summers, she even made us come inside for an hour every day to read.
My dad was our hero – a Division I basketball star and World War II combat pilot. He was a teacher at my high school, a coach, the athletic director, and the bus driver. Between him and my mom as the librarian, we Thune kids were practically never away from our parents’ watchful eyes. I am so grateful to have had my dad’s coaching – in sports and in life. On the court, my dad taught us players to play as a team. He didn’t like ball hogs or people who were in it for personal glory. He believed your job as a member of a team was to make the people around you better. If somebody else was in a better position to take the shot, you always made the extra pass. It’s an attitude I’ve tried to carry with me throughout my life.
Being back in Murdo also made me reflect on just how lucky I was to grow up in a small town – and small-town South Dakota in particular. The values I saw growing up in Murdo are reflected in towns all across our state. In Murdo I learned the character of South Dakotans – the work ethic, the commitment to freedom coupled with a belief in personal responsibility, and a sense of responsibility to the broader community.
South Dakotans cherish their freedoms – and they also believe that with freedom comes responsibility. They have a deep appreciation for the Founders’ vision that has allowed us to enjoy such freedom – and for the sacrifices that have been required to secure it. With that, of course, comes an expectation that each generation has to do its part to pay freedom’s price and protect all that we have been given.
The South Dakota values I learned growing up helped shape my political philosophy: my belief that government should be limited and that it is best when it’s closest to the people. If a matter can be handled at the state or local level, it should be. I learned that the legacy of the past is something to be cherished and preserved – while leaving room for change and adaptation when needed – and that freedom is a sacred gift, and one that must be defended. And, finally, while government is necessary, government is not where we should look for salvation.
The legacy of growing up in South Dakota is a precious one. I am deeply grateful for those years in Murdo and for the privilege of living in the Mount Rushmore State. South Dakota is the best state in the world to live, work, and raise a family. From Sioux Falls to Rapid City and every town in between, the communities and families that make up our great state are truly one-of-a-kind. I am proud to call South Dakota my home, and it is my great honor to represent the people of South Dakota in the United States Senate.