Noem 2019 Inaugural Address
PIERRE, S.D. – Governor Kristi Noem will give the following address today after taking the Oath of Office.
Noem’s address (as prepared for delivery):
Mr. Chief Justice, honorable members of the Supreme Court, Lt. Governor Rhoden, legislators, constitutional officers, family, friends, and fellow South Dakotans:
I am deeply honored to stand here in this beautiful rotunda surrounded by all of you as we participate in this peaceful passing of responsibility from one Governor to the next.
The oath that I just took is a promise and a commitment to everyone in this state. I promise to govern in a manner that will benefit all South Dakotans. From Rapid City to Sioux Falls. From Buffalo to North Sioux City. From Pine Ridge to Sisseton. My door will always be open to listen. I believe I have a good sense of where we need to go as a state but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep the dialogue open. I’ve always believed it takes courage to stand up and speak, but it also takes courage to sit down and listen.
It is a great privilege and a solemn honor to serve as this state’s chief executive. It is one that do not take lightly because I believe that, as the Old Testament book of Daniel states, it is our God in heaven that puts leaders into place and it is He that removes them. As an elected leader, one of the most encouraging things that a citizen can do is to come up and say, “I’m praying for you.” Each and every time, I am encouraged and strengthened by those comments. So from this podium, on my first day in this high office, I ask for your prayers. Keep praying.
Many people have asked me what I want to be remembered for as Governor. Now that’s a tough question to grasp and to consider. In some ways it’s a distraction. Like any good farmer or rancher, I get up most mornings before the sun comes up, put one foot in front of the other and get to the day’s work – whether it’s feeding horses or negotiating a piece of legislation.
But, as the saying goes, a good way to live is for one to consider what they want said at their own funeral and work backward from there. In the same way, the question about how a governor wants to be remembered can serve as a tool to sharpen our focus.
To that end, when this is all over, I want to be a governor for the next generation.
For the next generation. For our kids, teenagers and young adults. That is what motivates so many of us, across many walks of life – to work that extra shift, to stay up late putting together that bicycle or forgo a new car so we can help pay for their school. Nothing makes my day like spending time with kids. Nothing motivates me more in public service than solving problems for our next generation.
Now whether it’s tackling the meth crisis that is hurting so many families and children, strengthening our schools and revitalizing civics in the classroom, keeping taxes and regulation low, or creating more habitat for wildlife so that our hunting traditions can be passed on – the north star that I want to follow with each decision I make as governor is the impact on the next generation. How does this policy, this legislation, this program, impact the next generation of South Dakotans?
Our state is in tremendous shape in many ways. We have had the blessing and good fortune of strong leadership at the executive and legislative level in many ways for many years. There are policies in place, including our low taxes, low regulation and open-for-business approach that have served our state well. We have Governor Dennis Daugaard and many leaders in the state legislature to thank for this. Thank you, Dennis. Thank you, legislators.
But that isn’t to say there aren’t areas where we can improve. In poll after poll, we see data showing that many Americans believe that our greatest days are not ahead of us. That the next generation won’t have the same opportunities that we had. That might be the national sentiment, but I won’t let that become the reality in South Dakota. Not on my watch. We are going to create opportunities for the next generation that help guarantee our best days are still before us as a state.
That is why I am surrounding myself with a team that has a mix of leadership experience. They have previous government experience at all levels, public and private sector experience and military experience. I want to bring the best and the brightest together to help us preserve the core of what makes South Dakota great, while innovating on policy solutions for the next generation. As I look at the team I am assembling for staff and cabinet, I see faces that know state government. I also see faces that know how other institutions and companies are achieving success and we’ll bring that to bear on state government.
There’s one person on our team that I want to call out specifically. Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden. Thank you for agreeing to serve with me, Larry. If you don’t know Larry, he has a strategic mind when it comes to how the legislature works. He understands how to get things done here in Pierre. He also has a lifetime of experiences on the ranch and in public service that will be extremely helpful as we make decisions. I look forward working with him.
I cannot let this day go by without also commenting on the historic nature of it. As you may know, this last November 5th was the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in South Dakota. So 100 years and 1 day after this great state extended women the right to vote, they elected the first woman as governor. I am proud of how far we have come.
As you know, I offered up my experience and my vision to the people of South Dakota to earn their vote. I did not campaign on gender. It wasn’t an issue, either way, in my mind. I was raised in a household where there weren’t any boy chores or girl chores. This sentiment is nothing new though.
On May 29, 1851, a slave woman from New York, who changed her name to Sojourner Truth, gave a speech at a conference on women’s rights. She responded with passion to the argument that women were too weak to be given the right to vote. She gave examples of strength in adversity from her own life. She said that she ploughed and planted and gathered as much as any man. She also said she could eat as much as any man. Weakness wasn’t a good enough argument to keep women from voting in her mind. Sojourner Truth was ahead of her time. But we caught up eventually. And soon we will be celebrating 100 years since the right to vote was extended to women.
It is a distinct honor to serve as our state’s first woman governor, first and foremost because of the message it sends to our state’s girls and young women, but really boys and young men as well. So all of you boys and girls out there watching, remember, anything is possible if you set your mind to it. Find role models, find mentors and go for it.
In closing, I would like to thank a few special people. First, I would like to thank Governors Farrar, Rounds and Daugaard for being here today. I am thankful for the strong foundation you have laid in this role. I would also like to recognize Don Ackerman. He is a Vietnam veteran with a very special place in my heart. We have stood together in policy fights and I am thankful for his friendship. Don, would you stand and be recognized? Will all our military men and women, retired and currently serving stand? Let’s thank them for their service.
As many of you know my role model early in life was always my dad. I wanted to farm and ranch with him as many of you know. But that dream was cut short. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him, the accident, the life he lived and the example he gave to us kids. The older I get, the more pain and suffering I see around me. The question isn’t if we will endure hardships, it’s when. And how we respond. How we get up off the floor and find our way forward. I wish my dad could be here today to see this. I can’t imagine what he might say about having his daughter as governor. But God had other plans. I know that loss shaped me and my family. The fire refined us.
My mom and my siblings and their families are here. And many other extended family members as well. We’re kind of a big group. Growing up with all of you made me into the person I am today. Hard work, prioritizing family and community and faith, keeping your head down and staying humble. These are the lessons I learned from my family. For that I am thankful. And now you all have stepped up to help me with my kids and my chores and my duties at home, when I’ve been away. Thank you.
My three children, Kassidy, Kennedy and Booker have had many unique experiences because of the path of public service we’ve chosen but they have also had to endure more than any mom would want. Thank you for persevering and for your help along the way. Thank you for your good attitudes and your ability to always put a smile on my face. Being a mom might be the title that has the most impact on how we govern during the next four years; how we improve this state for the next generation.
And of course, my husband Bryon. When he married me, he thought he was marrying a farmer and rancher. He has been the solid rock of our family. Our foundation. He has stepped up when I’ve been on the road and been there to listen, at any hour. He is going to make an amazing first First Gentleman. You can count on that.
I want to thank each and every one of you here today and for those listening in at home. Thank you for your interest in our state. Thank you for investing in our future with your time and your talents and your concern. Please, stay engaged. Stay connected. It is my goal to be the most connected Governor our state has ever had. I want to hear from you early and often. Together, we can build upon our state’s solid foundation with innovative new policies that will help make South Dakota into an example for the nation. For today. And for the next generation.
Thank you. May God bless you all. And May God bless the great State of South Dakota.