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Sunday, November 2, 2014, marks a historic milestone in South Dakota’s rich history, the 125th anniversary of its admission into the Union. On that day in 1889, the Dakota Territory was divided, simultaneously creating South and North Dakota. We kind-heartedly debate which was first to be admitted, but historians offer that President Benjamin Harrison shuffled the Act of Admission papers for the states to ensure that no one knew which state entered the Union first.

Regardless, we have much for which we should be proud. Since 1889, millions of Americans and international visitors have enjoyed the beauty of our great plains, crossed the rolling hills of the Missouri River, and marveled at the ruggedness of the Badlands. Others have joined in the thrill of an autumn pheasant hunt, curiously visited the Mitchell Corn Palace or Wall Drug, or have reveled in the beauty of the historic Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse Memorial.

To us, though, South Dakota is home, and in addition to the wondrous beauty God blessed upon the state, we are fortunate to live in welcoming communities, many of which were built by those who came here to make a better life for themselves. My grandfather immigrated to America from Norway in 1906 and was drawn to the freedom and opportunity that the young state of South Dakota offered. He started a small hardware store, exhibiting the entrepreneurial spirit that still resonates today on our main streets and fields throughout the state.

While many immigrated to South Dakota, we also celebrate the culture and traditions of our nine Native American tribes. The rich history of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota are woven into the fabric of South Dakota and are a significant part of what makes South Dakota such a unique and special place.

South Dakota’s dynamic and resourceful workforce has made our state the number one place in the country to do business, and our proud agricultural tradition helps feed the nation and the world. Yet it is South Dakota’s people, past and present, that are by far our greatest commodity. South Dakota’s 125-year history has been paved by the humble, generous, and hard-working men and women who lend a helpful hand to their neighbors and communities to build a better life for the next generation.

From small towns such as Murdo, where I grew up, to cities such as Sioux Falls, where I now live, and all points in between, there is no mistaking the genuine character of South Dakotans. We gather under the lights of Friday night games, at rodeos, local parades, powwows, and church gatherings for comradery and fellowship that provide support during good times and bad. South Dakotans are the people who selflessly lend a hand after a storm sweeps through the plains or help friends through a deployment. South Dakotans uphold the highest ideals of community.

As communities throughout the state continue celebrating this important milestone, I was proud to join Senator Tim Johnson in passing a resolution in the Senate on September 18, 2014, celebrating the 125th anniversary of statehood. As we look to the next generation to continue improving our communities and strengthening our state’s resolve, I offer my prayers that God will continue to bless our great state.