Recent Op-Eds

A South Dakota Summer

September 10, 2021

As a South Dakotan, there’s a lot for which I’m thankful. This state is the best place in the country to live, work, and raise a family. It’s my home. It’s my kids’ and grandkids’ home. And it’s a beacon of freedom, opportunity, and personal responsibility that continues to draw people from across the United States to come explore. Are there any downsides? Just one. Snow. I hate shoveling snow.

With the summer season drawing to a close, which unfortunately means we’re getting closer to having to deal with the white stuff, it’s a good time to reflect on what else makes me thankful to be a South Dakotan: its people. It doesn’t matter what town you’re traveling through, it becomes clear that the people of this state are what give it its backbone. They are hardworking, passionate, God-fearing Americans who are always willing to go the extra mile for a friend, neighbor, or family member.

I’m back in South Dakota nearly every day the Senate is not in session to spend time with friends, family, and fellow South Dakotans. It’s where I recharge my batteries after dealing with all of the craziness in Washington, D.C. I’ve spent the last several weeks crisscrossing the state to check in with folks and hear what’s on their minds. As always, it’s been really informative, especially as I prepare to head back to Washington where a little commonsense and South Dakota straight-talk go a long way.

Whether I was in a bigger city or a smaller town, I heard about everything from the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan to border security to keeping our communities safe. I heard about economic issues, particularly the workforce shortages that are plaguing businesses throughout the state. Farmers and ranchers told me about the agriculture industry’s seemingly annual struggle with tough weather and market conditions. South Dakotans’ concerns are my concerns, so you can be sure I’ll take these messages with me to Washington.

I’m sure you’ve heard “I’ve Been Everywhere,” the old Johnny Cash classic. Well, it’s been echoing through my head throughout these last few weeks. I’ve been to Parker, Aberdeen, Mitchell, Sioux Falls, Wessington Springs, Miller, Onida, Gettysburg, Faulkton, Redfield, Clark, Harrisburg, Rapid City, Ellsworth Air Force Base, Armour, Wagner, Avon, Parkston, Tyndall, Brookings, Huron, Lemmon, Highmore, Ipswich, Box Elder, and Spearfish. And county fairs – what would summer be without a Tubby Burger? While I haven’t been everywhere, I have tried to travel to as many corners of the state as possible. If we didn’t catch up this summer, I hope to see you soon.

Aside from my usual summer travel, it was also a lot of fun to follow the Sioux Falls Little League team’s run at the Little League World Series. These young athletes were true professionals on and off the field, and they really showed that they can play ball with the best of them. While they came up short in the end, they left it all on the field. A proud state was there to cheer them every step of the way and welcome them home to celebrate their success. You’ll get ‘em next year, guys.

My final reflection this summer is for our men and women in uniform. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 20 years since the September 11 attacks. From the rubble, America picked itself up and dusted itself off and took the fight to the bad guys to keep it and them from coming back to our shores. The American heroes who carried out these missions served with bravery and honor, and they succeeded. While what we have seen unfold in Afghanistan over the last month is unnecessary, and it is painful for many to see, it bears no reflection on the service and sacrifice of our troops, including those South Dakotans who have stepped up to serve. You are the true heroes.

Ah, South Dakota. There’s no place like home. Summer is ending, but fall is right around the corner. That means South Dakota high school and college sports, pheasant hunting, and so much more. And as for winter, maybe this is the year I buy a snow blower.