The Great Plains were homesteaded by men and women with a strong yearning for freedom and liberty – seeking an opportunity for their hard work and resourcefulness to cultivate enough prosperity to provide for their families, build some savings, and see the next generation do a little better than themselves. Many who followed in their footsteps and made South Dakota home, like my grandparents, were immigrants who sought the same freedom and opportunity. Enriched by the indigenous heritage of the state, these timeless ideals remain woven in the fabric of our communities to this day and continue to make our state a special place to live, work, raise families, and worship.
Within our deeply rooted sense of self-reliance and determination also lives an ingrained sense of community and civic duty. Our nation recently reflected on the military service of generations of men and women on Veterans Day. From the airmen at Ellsworth Air Force Base, to the strong participation in the South Dakota Army and Air National Guard from across the state, and through decades of service across the armed forces, patriotic South Dakotans have always demonstrated their sense of service.
This sense of civic duty is also evident from our larger cities to our smallest of towns. It’s the thread that so tightly holds the fabric of our communities sewn together. We see it in our schools and churches, assisting an elderly neighbor, and sending over a meal to he??lp a family stay nourished through tough times. We see it in helping to pull a tractor out of a muddy field, sandbagging homes and businesses during a flood, and rebuilding after a storm. We see it in police officers keeping our neighborhoods safe and in volunteer firefighters responding to an alarm. We see it in supporting a family while a spouse is deployed, or pitching in during the harvest when a tragedy has struck a family.
This is the best of South Dakotans, and it happens every day in every town.
We now face a collective hardship, and there has never been a more important time to act on our sense of community. The coronavirus pandemic has upended the world and thrown our nation and state a multitude of health and economic challenges. Scientists and doctors are making great strides in understanding the virus and are seeing promising breakthroughs toward vaccines and therapeutics. There is great reason to be hopeful—but it is incumbent on us to do our part to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors safe until these treatments are authorized and can be widely distributed. There’s plenty to be optimistic about, but we’re not out of the woods yet.
There are no cure-alls, but there are simple, straightforward, and common-sense ways to limit the spread of COVID-19: Practice good hygiene by washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes. Stay socially distant and avoid crowds, especially indoors. When social distancing is not possible, please wear a mask. These are steps all of us can take out of the strong sense of civic duty that binds South Dakotans together. Remember, we’re in this together.
Winters in South Dakota are notoriously tough, and I know I am not alone in recognizing that this winter may be tougher yet. Navigating this holiday season – a time of family, gratitude, and celebration – during a pandemic may challenge our traditions and test our resolve. And for those who have lost loved ones or are separated from those who are in recovery or are isolated by their risk category, you will especially be in my thoughts.
South Dakotans are resilient, and we have overcome many challenges together. And it is together that we may get one step ahead of the coronavirus and buy additional time until vaccines can be delivered and our way of life begins to return to normal. This holiday season, I remain blessed to call South Dakota home, and know I am fortunate to live in a state that can unify behind this common challenge with a common set of tools to fight it.