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THUNE: Thankful for a happy and healthy 2016

For many South Dakotans, the presidential election probably dominated conversations with friends and family for much of the year. It's no surprise, considering how historic the election was from beginning to end. And while that certainly makes 20...

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For many South Dakotans, the presidential election probably dominated conversations with friends and family for much of the year. It's no surprise, considering how historic the election was from beginning to end. And while that certainly makes 2016 a year for the history books, I'm sure there are many other reasons why South Dakotans will remember the last 12 months and be thankful for the opportunities that came their way. So before we flip the calendar from 2016 to 2017, I wanted to share just a handful of reasons why this year has been so special for me.

After my faith, my family means more to me than anything else in the world. Kimberley, my far better half, has been my rock for more than 30 years and continues to push me to be a better person both personally and professionally. Our daughters Brittany and Larissa never cease to amaze me, and I'm so proud of the lives they continue to build with their respective husbands Luke and Scott.

This year was a year of firsts for our family as Larissa and Scott welcomed their first child, Henley Joy Hargens, who also happened to be our first grandchild. I joke with Kimberley that it was easier for her than me to add "grand" to our titles of mother and father, but all joking aside, there is no way to fully describe in words the immense joy of seeing your baby girl holding a baby girl of her own. Next year will bring another first for our family as Brittany and Luke welcome their first child, too.

After becoming a grandfather, it's hard not to think about my dad who is now a great-grandfather to 20 amazing kids. While my dad will turn 97 years old this year, he's a perfect example of age merely being a number. He and I spent a morning on the golf course earlier this summer, and although he's more than 40 years my senior, he can still golf a better round than me. My dad still joins us every October for the pheasant opener, too. Roosters or not, he's usually one of the happiest people in camp.

I'm also thankful for the people of South Dakota. It's a humbling experience to be elected to the Senate and bring your voice to the halls of the U.S. Capitol. My staff, who work throughout South Dakota and in Washington, D.C., are easily the hardest-working group in the Senate. Like me, whether it is spring, summer, fall or now during the holiday season, they are always ready to work hard for you.

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2016 has been busy, but it has also been a fun, healthy and happy year. Here's to an even better 2017.

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