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July 2, 2021

On July 4, 1776, our Founding Fathers signed a transformational document full of beautiful principles that would come to define our great nation. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” Thomas Jefferson famously wrote before outlining those principles.


Looking back, it’s easy to forget how controversial those ideas were at the time. After all, throughout our nation’s history we’ve embraced those transformational concepts. They’ve elevated America to unprecedented heights. But today, we see numerous challenges to those fundamental principles. While other parts of the country are tearing up the Declaration, South Dakota is working to defend the inspirational ideas laid out by our Founding Fathers.


“All men are created equal,” Jefferson continued, outlining the founding ideal of the American experiment. Though it took some years before our nation lived up to this ideal, we have made great strides in advancing and preserving the equality of all human beings.


Unfortunately, today some seek to sow division in our nation, rather than emphasizing the equality that makes America so special. Misinformed ideas like critical race theory are incorrectly re-framing American history as a story of “us versus them” rather than “We the People.” They seek to replace 1776 – when the Declaration was signed – as the year of our nation’s founding with the lie that it actually occurred in 1619.


In South Dakota, we are not allowing critical race theory and other similar ideas to infiltrate our schools. Instead, we will teach our true, patriotic history. Our students will learn of America’s triumphs and mistakes alike. And from both, they will achieve a greater love and appreciation for our principles and our history.


Jefferson continued his list of guiding principles with, “…That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” South Dakota is certainly standing for these rights.


South Dakota is working to protect the right to life of all of our people, born and unborn. Most recently, I signed legislation to protect the right to life even of unborn children who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome, and I also had the opportunity to sign 5 other pro-life bills. This past year, our state saw the fewest abortions of any year since the devastating Roe v. Wade decision. And to our knowledge, my office is the only governor’s office in the country that has a preborn child advocate who wakes up every day looking for ways to defend life. South Dakota will continue to build a culture of life as our Founding Fathers intended.


Over the last year, South Dakota has received attention because we’ve defended our people’s right to liberty. Our Founding Fathers were clear. Benjamin Franklin, who worked alongside Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence, famously stated, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Unfortunately, 2020 showed leaders across our country infringing on the liberty of their people in the name of safety. South Dakota took a different path, and we are strong today as a result. That is how we will continue to operate for as long as I am governor.


I will continue to defend the principles of the Declaration of Independence. After all, our state honors Thomas Jefferson at Mount Rushmore, our Shrine of Democracy. This Independence Day, take some time with your family to reflect on our Founding ideals. America is the greatest nation on earth because our Founding Fathers took the time to articulate them, fight for them, and secure them for all of us.