Inspiring the Next Generation of Leaders
By Sen. John Thune
It’s amazing how the littlest things in life can have an outsized effect on the decisions a person makes in the future. For me, it was a missed free throw. As silly as it might sound, it’s true.
It was a Friday night in Murdo, South Dakota, during the semi-final game of the annual Jones County basketball tournament. I was a freshman in high school, but I had the opportunity to play varsity ball that night, and I had a pretty good game, too. I attempted six free throws and drained all but one of them. I was (and still am) a competitive guy and would have much preferred to have gone six-for-six. Little did I know at the time, though, had it not been for that one missed free throw, I might not be serving in the U.S. Senate today.
The day after the game, I was in the checkout line in a store on Murdo’s Main Street, and a man tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I saw you missed one last night.” I had no idea who the person was or how he would eventually change my life, but in the back of my mind, I thought, “well, thanks for noticing.”
The man introduced himself as Congressman Jim Abdnor. It was a chance encounter that led to a lifelong friendship and mentorship – one that inspired me to pursue public service myself.
Now that I serve in the Senate – holding the same Senate seat that Jim eventually held himself – I want to do my part to help inspire the next generation of leaders in South Dakota. While I, too, drop by high school and college basketball games every now and then to provide my encouragement and support, I offer several opportunities through my Senate office that give future South Dakota leaders a front row seat to our democracy.
I have Senate offices throughout South Dakota – in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Aberdeen. I have an office in Washington, D.C., too. My offices are always looking to hire the best-of-the-best interns to assist staff with their core mission of helping serve the people of South Dakota. Interns in my Washington office, in particular, will see the legislative process firsthand, giving Capitol tours and attending Senate votes and congressional hearings, among other events.
While interns would specifically serve in my office, I also have the ability to nominate certain South Dakota high school students to serve as Senate pages. They attend classes in Washington and assist senators in the Capitol, right on the Senate floor. It’s a highly competitive program, but South Dakota high schools are full of qualified students, and I enjoy the opportunity to nominate them when I can.
The U.S. Senate Youth Program (USSYP) is another unique opportunity for South Dakota high school students to immerse themselves in the legislative process. Students who are selected will receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship and an all-expense paid trip to Washington for meetings on Capitol Hill, the White House, and other locations around the city.
We’ll begin searching for spring 2019 interns next month, which is also the deadline to apply for next year’s USSYP, so if you or someone you know is interested in an internship, the Senate page program, USSYP, or nominations to U.S. service academies, you can find more information on my website (www.thune.senate.gov) or by contacting any of my Senate offices. I look forward to hearing from you.