Senator John ThuneThe South Dakota American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary are two venerable organizations that serve South Dakota's veteran community and make rich contributions to South Dakota's social fabric. The Legion's commitment to civic education is nowhere more apparent than in the annual Boys and Girls State General Assemblies-both of which I had the honor to address when the Senate was not in session in honor of Memorial Day.
During the Great Depression, the American Legion recognized the need for America's youth to be educated about democracy and the political process in the face of anti-democratic sentiment rising abroad. Today there are Boys and Girls State programs in every state in the Union.
This year, young women from across South Dakota journeyed to Vermillion and the University of South Dakota, while the young men gathered at Northern State University in Aberdeen. Based on what I saw at both campuses, I am proud to say that I believe the future of South Dakota is in capable hands.
When it comes to the education of our children, it is important to keep in mind that these young men and women are the future leaders of our state, both in business and in government. Civics education is critical in the classroom, as well as through programs like Boys and Girls State that give students the hands-on experience of participating in the political process. Democracy can only exist so long as people are capable of governing themselves, and it is education-at home, in the classroom, and beyond-- that assists students in having a greater appreciation and understanding of the principles that our great nation was founded upon.
To all of those who participated in both Boys and Girls State this year, congratulations on a successful year. I enjoyed the opportunity to speak to you and I appreciated many of your questions. I hope that your experience was as rewarding for you as Boys State was for me in 1978 when I first attended. I encourage all of you to approach your future studies and challenges with the same enthusiasm and determination that I saw on display in Aberdeen and Vermillion. Regardless of your pursuits after high school, I know that you will continue to make South Dakota proud.