The young men attending South Dakota Boys State showed a strong awareness of Missouri River flooding at the Governor’s Banquet on Thursday evening.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard was unable to attend the banquet, which was at Northern State University’s Jerde Hall. In his place, he sent his chief of staff, Dusty Johnson. After his speech, Johnson fielded questions from the Boys Staters, most of which concerned the flooding in South Dakota.
One of the young men asked Johnson if the government didn’t have forecasters who, seeing the problems coming, could have let more water out of the dams earlier.
Johnson said that question is being asked a lot in the Pierre area. But now is not the time to think about blame, he said. And he’s going to give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the benefit of the doubt. For now, he’s assuming that “If they could have avoided this, they probably would have.”
Johnson told the young men that if they pray at night, he would ask them to pray for no rain in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota “at least for a little while.”
Many families and businesses will suffer because of the flooding, he said. Among other things, there will be less money coming into the state coffers, Johnson said.
The Boys Staters took action themselves to help flood victims. Earlier in the day, they created a flood relief fund. Participants and counselors will make donations to the fund.
During his talk, Johnson told the Boys Staters they have an obligation to do well and to do good.
When he was a 7-year-old living in Fort Pierre, his family experienced a tough Christmas, he said. His mother told him the family wouldn’t have a Christmas that year. But out of the blue, three members of the Masons showed up to give the family more presents than they could imagine.
He was ashamed to use food stamps to buy groceries. But that Christmas, he didn’t feel shame. He felt pride “that there were people who cared about me and weren’t being forced to,” he said.
At the beginning of his talk, Johnson said the Boys Staters were probably disappointed, expecting to see the governor. “Instead, you got one of his lackeys,” he said.
It was, he said, a little like being told you’d be marooned on a desert island with Megan Fox. “And you show up and it’s Dwight Schrute,” he said, referring to a character on "The Office."
In their own legislature, the Boys State participants will face a similar problem today. Brown hoped that his talk will help the young men make decisions.
Brown, 36, is Gettysburg’s economic development director. Now the chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee, he attended Boys State in 1992.
Brown, who also appeared at Boys State last year, was impressed with the questions the young men asked at the end of his presentation.
“These are some of our top-notch students. They’re motivated. They try to do good things,” Brown said. He is excited that “we’ve got this kind of caliber of young people, especially for the future of South Dakota.”
Anxious to campaign
Before he even got to Boys State, Pious Patel figured he was going to run for office.