Noem tells SDSU grads curveballs are part of life's journeyBROOKINGS – Eighteen years after leaving college, Rep. Kristi Noem is now a graduate of South Dakota State University.
By: EMMA DEJONG, For The Daily Republic
BROOKINGS – Eighteen years after leaving college, Rep. Kristi Noem is now a graduate of South Dakota State University.
The Republican congresswoman, wife, mother, rancher, farmer and hunting lodge owner from Castlewood spoke Saturday on behalf of 1,591 fellow graduates at SDSU’s 2012 undergraduate commencement ceremony.
Noem, 40, talked about struggles in her own life, and she emphasized one piece of advice.
“Curve balls are inevitably going to come your way, but your journey is determined by how you react,” she said.
After high school, Noem attended Northern State University in Aberdeen. She married at age 20 and was pregnant two years later when her father died from a farming accident. She chose to leave college and return home to help her brother and sister take care of the family farm.
“I figured that I’d go back to school after a while, but then life happened,” she said.
And life did happen. From 2007 to 2010, Noem served in the state House of Representatives and was assistant majority leader for the final two years. In November 2010, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives with a victory over Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, the incumbent Democrat.
Noem has a husband and three children, and she said they were a key influence on her decision to go back to school.
“I wanted to finish what I started, but also I wanted to set an example for my kids,” she said.
In 2008, she started taking classes — oftentimes working in the airport between flights and late at night after the kids were asleep. In December, she finished her classes to finally earn a degree in political science.
In her speech, she told her fellow graduates a story she often tells to her children. She said life is sometimes like a vehicle with the emergency brake on — it just doesn’t seem to go as well as it could.
She listed several things that could be the emergency brake. Saying “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not smart enough” and “I’m not pretty enough” were a few. She said once the emergency brake is disengaged, a vehicle runs much better.
“Today, let’s take our emergency brakes off,” she said.
Noem was the second speaker. The first was Laurie Fulton, the U.S. ambassador to Denmark and ex-wife of former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
After her speech, Noem had one last role in the ceremony: She walked across the stage, shook hands with SDSU President David Chicoine and received her degree.