Kristi Noem: (00:00)
Aww, thank you. Now listen. Listen, my guess is that a year ago most of you had no idea who I was, but unlike the DC media, I’m sure that you all at least know that there are two Dakotas, and that I’m the governor of the warmer one. I’m here today to share some of the lessons from my state. I think the main question that needs to be answered this weekend is, why does America need conservatives? Now, the question of why America needs conservatives can be answered by just mentioning one single year, and that year is 2020. Now everybody knows that almost overnight we went from a roaring economy to a tragic nationwide shutdown. By the beginning of 2020, President Trump had created 7 million new American jobs. We had the lowest unemployment rate in over half a century, and unemployment rates for black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans reached the lowest levels in history. More than 10 million people had been lifted out of poverty and out of welfare. And all of that changed in March.
Kristi Noem: (01:19)
Now, most governors shut down their states. What followed was record unemployment, businesses closed, most schools were shuttered and communities suffered, and the U.S. Economy came to an immediate halt. Now let me be clear, COVID didn’t crush the economy, government crushed the economy. And then just as quickly, government turned around and held itself out as the savior, and frankly, the Treasury Department can’t print money fast enough to keep up with Congress’s wishlist. But not everyone has followed this path. For those of you who don’t know, South Dakota is the only state in America that never ordered a single business or church to close. We never instituted a shelter in place order. We never mandated that people wear masks. We never even defined what an essential business is, because I don’t believe that governors have the authority to tell you that your business isn’t essential.
Kristi Noem: (02:48)
Now, South Dakota schools are no different than schools everywhere else in America, but we approached the pandemic differently. From the earliest days of the pandemic our priority was the students, their wellbeing and their education. When it was time to go back to school in the fall, we put our kids in the classroom. Teachers, administrators, parents and the students themselves were of one mind to make things work for our children, and the best way to do that was in the classroom. Now in South Dakota, I provided all of the information that we had to our people, and then I trusted them to make the best decisions for themselves, for their families, and in turn, their communities. We never focused on the case numbers. Instead, we kept our eye on hospital capacity. Now, Dr. Fauci, he told me that on my worst day I’d have 10,000 patients in the hospital. On our worst day, we had a little over 600. Now, I don’t know if you agree with me, but Dr. Fauci is wrong a lot.
Kristi Noem: (04:24)
Even in a pandemic, public health policy needs to take into account people’s economic and social wellbeing. Daily needs still need to be met. People need to keep a roof over their heads. They need to feed their families. And they still need purpose. They need their dignity. Now my administration resisted the call for virus control at the expense of everything else. We looked at the science, the data and the facts, and then we took a balanced approach. Truthfully, I never thought that the decisions that I was making were going to be unique. I thought that there would be more who would follow basic conservative principles, but I guess I was wrong. Ask yourself this question, how far will people go to enforce mask mandates? Once you start lockdowns, how long can you sustain them? In South Dakota we had some cases in March and April, but the virus didn’t really hit the Midwest until late fall. Should we have kept people in their homes for March onward? Of course not.
Kristi Noem: (05:25)
It’s important to ask these questions. We have to show people how arbitrary these restrictions are, and the coercion, the force, and the anti Liberty steps that governments take to enforce them. Often, the enforcement isn’t based on facts. Justifying these mitigation efforts has been anything but scientific. Now many in the media, they criticized South Dakota’s approach. They labeled me as ill-informed, that I was reckless, and even a denier. Some even claimed that South Dakota was as bad as it gets anywhere in the world when it comes to COVID-19. That is a lie. The media did all of this while simultaneously praising governors who issued lockdowns, who mandated masks and shut down businesses, applauding them as having taken the right steps to mitigate the spread of the virus. At one point, I appeared on George Stephanopoulos’ Sunday Show. I don’t know if you watched that. No, you don’t? Shocker. He had just wrapped up a segment with New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, where he asked Cuomo to give me some advice on how to deal with COVID.
Kristi Noem: (06:54)
Now seems like a really good time to remind everyone of what Governor Cuomo was doing in New York. On March 25th, Cuomo ordered COVID patients into nursing homes, and he prohibited the staff from testing people before admitting them. Nine days later, he pushed legislation prohibiting nursing home lawsuits over COVID deaths. Six days after that, he prohibited nursing homes from sending COVID patients to the nearby Naval hospital ship or the field hospital, both of which were essentially empty. Now eight days after that, the first deaths started to show up. And on January 28th of this year, the New York attorney general announced that Cuomo and his administration significantly under counted the number of COVID related deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%. To make matters worse, they tried to cover it up. Now that that is the media’s COVID hero. And by the way, he also earned an Emmy and he wrote a book on his COVID response. So who really needed the advice?
Kristi Noem: (08:01)
Again in South Dakota, we did things differently. We applied common sense and conservative governing principles. We never exceeded our hospital capacity and our economy is booming. We have the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. We are number one in the nation for keeping jobs, keeping businesses open and keeping money in the pockets of our people. The people of South Dakota kept their hours and their wages at a higher rate than workers anywhere else in the nation. And our schools are open. America needs conservatives at the state and the local level, but we also need conservatives at the highest level of government too. In America, we have government of, by and for the people. Our founding fathers established our National Constitution, and the people of individual states crafted their own constitutions that place specific limits on the role of government. Those limits are essential to preventing government officials from trampling on people’s rights.
Kristi Noem: (09:28)
The people themselves are primarily responsible for their own health and their wellbeing. They are the ones entrusted with expansive freedoms, the free will to exercise their rights to work, worship and to earn a living. No governor should ever dictate to their people which activities are officially approved or not approved. And no governor should ever arrest, ticket or fine people for exercising their freedoms. Governors, and members of Congress and the president have a duty to respect the rights of the people who elected them, but it seems these days that conservatives are the only ones who know what that means. Personal responsibility is considered a God-given gift in South Dakota. Personal responsibility is not a term that conservatives have abandoned. When I was preparing to come speak with you, I came across some fascinating remarks that were made back in 1962. Listen to this. The Declaration above all else was a document, not of rhetoric, but a bold decision. The Declaration unleashed not merely a revolution against the British, but a revolution in human affairs.
Kristi Noem: (10:49)
This doctrine of national independence shook the globe and it remains the most powerful force anywhere in the world today. That’s fantastic, right? Those are the words of Democrat President John F. Kennedy. Is there any wonder why Ronald Reagan often said, I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, it left me? There was a time when both political parties clung to certain fundamental principles, but today we seem not to even share the most basic ideals. America needs people who will stand up for these fundamental principles. America needs conservatives. It’s easy to look back on 2020 and remember all of the issues that we had with COVID, but COVID is only one piece of a very problematic puzzle. It certainly showed us how deep the divide really is and how thin the barrier is between freedom and tyranny. But there was a worse movement that was happening in 2020, and it’s an ongoing problem. Across America these last several months, we watched an organized, coordinated campaign to remove and eliminate all references to our nation’s founding and many other parts of our history.
Kristi Noem: (12:10)
Rather than looking to the past to help improve our future, some are trying to wipe away the lessons of history. Lessons that we should be teaching to our children and to our grandchildren. Now, this approach focuses exclusively on our forefathers’ flaws and it fails to capitalize on the opportunity to learn from their virtues. And they had many of those. By discrediting the individuals who formed America’s founding principles, they create doubt, and then they can remake America into a very different political image. It is our job to help explain why this is wrong. Remember, America wasn’t founded for the personal gain or personal power of men like Washington, Adams and Jefferson. The signers of the Declaration of Independence put their lives and their sacred honor on the line, and they affirmed people’s God-given freedoms. Still today, the Declaration of Independence is one of the most important statements of purpose ever written, and not just because it serves as the justification for our independence to the entire world, but also because it has led to our prosperity, and it’s inspired many other nations and peoples to seek freedom.
Kristi Noem: (13:35)
We, the people have consented to a government that will serve all of us equally, a government that will protect and uphold our God-given rights, as well as the fundamental rights enumerated by our Constitution. It is our duty to renew our commitment to these ideals and to pass them on to those who come after us. These ideals can not be dismissed as the opinions of flawed men. Our founders had their flaws, certainly. But to use those flaws to condemn their ideals and the greatest constitution that the world has ever seen is both unjust and it’s self-defeating. How many of us can even live up to our own ideals? Without the words, the beliefs and the sacrifices of those few, the world would not have a ringing example of true freedom. To attempt to cancel the founding generation is an attempt to cancel our own freedoms. Let’s always remember, America is good. Freedom is better than tyranny. We are unique. We are exceptional, and no American should ever, ever apologize for that.
Kristi Noem: (15:10)
We should illustrate to the world that people thrive when government is limited, and people’s ingenuity and their creativity is unleashed. We should also remind the world what happens when tyranny and oppression are allowed to thrive. These days, too many are embracing China, a nation that crushes freedom of speech and religion. China literally places religious minorities in internment camps. China responded to the COVID virus by trying to cover it up. And one of their mitigation strategies was to weld doors shut to lock families in their homes. Friends of China are not friends of freedom. Make no mistake, America’s leadership is needed in the world. So now let’s have a really candid conversation. Everyone in this room and those listening at home, they know that America needs leaders right now. Those leaders need wisdom. They need the confidence to stand up for our principles and a will to act. Those leaders need to be conservative.
Kristi Noem: (16:12)
We have a lot of work to do in the coming months. What may have worked in the past is not good enough anymore. It’s not enough to say, vote for us because your pocket book will be bigger, or because we’ll cut your taxes and reduce the regulations, or because we’ll fight against abortion, or Obamacare, or whatever else. I’m not saying that these things aren’t important. They are among the pillars of what we believe. But conservatives must lead the nation away from borrowing against our children’s future. We must put an end to the accounting gimmicks used to deceive people. Joe Biden has been in politics for 50 years. At that time, our national debt was roughly $450 billion. Today that’s pretty close to what we pay in interest on our national debt. Everyone is to blame. We have forgotten principles that we once held dear, and we must more closely articulate to the American people that we are the only ones who respect them as human beings, that we are the only ones who believe the American people have God given rights.
Kristi Noem: (17:15)
We are not here to tell you how to live your life, how to treat you like a child or a criminal because you go to church or you defend yourself. Conservatives respect people as individuals. We don’t divide people based on their religion, their culture, or the color of their skin. We don’t shun people who think for themselves. And we understand that every single person is different. Each person, each person deserves the opportunity to build his or her life without some self-important government bureaucrat telling them what they can or what they can’t do. We don’t have the media on our side. Conservatives must be smarter than progressives. We must know our history. We must know what works and what doesn’t work. We must think through the issues. And make no mistake about it, conservatives exist to fight for America and for every single American.
Kristi Noem: (18:13)
Now, for those of you who are disappointed about the election, I am too. Remember, incredible innovation though, it took place after Goldwater’s 1964 landside loss. It took the creation of many institutions, including the American Conservative Union, the National Right to Life, the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, Concerned Women for America, the Federalist Society, Family Research Council, and among others, took many to change hearts and to change minds. It was institutions like these that helped to bring about the Reagan revolution and bring American exceptionalism back. Their work is more important today than ever before. So what can you do right now? It’s really simple. You can be bold. You can show up. Debate these ideas. Persuade your neighbors. This pandemic illustrated that many politicians have a totally different vision for government than what the founders laid out. It was once said that the left takes its vision seriously, more seriously than it takes the rights of other people. They want to be our shepherds, but that requires us to be the sheep. Let it be heard loud and clear from us right now, we will not be sheep.
Kristi Noem: (19:39)
So I’d like to close today with a story. My dad was a cowboy. He was the toughest person that I’ve ever known. Ever since I was a real little girl, I just wanted to grow up and be like him. Now he died in an accident on our farm when I was 22 years old, and a couple of months after he was killed, I finally got the courage to go out and clean out his pickup. Now all of you who have a farmer or rancher in your life, you know that they often live out of their pickups. Everything important can be found in the cab. Their wallet, bills to pay, tools, you name it. And if you need to find something important, every single one of us farmers’ kids knows that the pickup is the first place that you look. Now as new general manager of the business couple of months after dad died, I knew that where that pickup was, what was in it, and I needed to clean it out eventually. But those months had also been filled with hundreds and hundreds of questions.
Kristi Noem: (21:02)
What seeds should we be planting? What fields should we plant first? What’s the price that we need to sell our calves for to cashflow the cattle operation? And I didn’t have those answers. I remember wishing over and over again, if I could just ask dad, if I could just ask dad one more question. And frankly, I was running the business, but I was daily faking my way through it. I had no idea how we were going to keep family business going without my dad. And I was determined though that we weren’t going to fail. So that day, as I carried a box out to the pickup, I knew it was time to clean it out. I stuck my hand down into the console in the middle between the chairs in the front seat, and I started to put items in the box that I was taking out. So the first thing was a pliers. How many of you know what a pliers is? A baby Ruth candy bar. I remember that was his favorite. Notebooks, pens, tools. And then I found a little tiny tape recorder.
Kristi Noem: (22:01)
It was the kind of tape recorder that a doctor dictates into. I pushed the play button and immediately I heard my dad’s voice. He was talking about seed corn varieties, which ones had performed well on certain fields that we owned that went with certain soil types. He spoke about how we’d had such a wet year the year before that resulted in poor crop yields and damaged green. We had had a tough harvest, and he went on to describe what kind of variety choices he would have made differently, what he thought might work better for the spring that we were anticipating ahead. My eyes started to fill up with tears as I realized I was learning information that was going to be helpful to me in making crop decisions. I looked down into the console and I saw several more tapes, almost a dozen of them in all. And one by one, I put them in the tape recorder sitting there in that pickup, and I listened to my dad’s voice talk about the cows, weather, markets, and what to do if we were ever caught in a tough financial situation.
Kristi Noem: (23:03)
Inside those tapes were the answers to so many of the questions that I had had over the past several months. Over and over again I had said, if I could just ask dad. And here in my hands were all the answers that I needed straight from him in his voice, in the palm of my hand. Now in that moment, I felt a strange sort of peace settle over me. I know scripture talks about a peace that passes all understanding. It was almost at that moment as if God was saying to me, I will provide. Stop worrying. You will be okay. Your family will be okay. I’ve got this. I had the answers, I just needed to get to work. Now, dad was always the hardest worker that I knew. He led by example and he led by action. But that day, what changed everything was his words. I made a decision that day to be like my dad, a person of words, but a person of action, because both matter.
Kristi Noem: (24:08)
That’s why I ran for office. My mission is to make South Dakota a better place. A better place to live, to do business and to raise a family. One of the reasons I care so deeply about these issues is because I want these things for my family and for every single American family. I believe South Dakota has been an example to the nation this past year. People used personal responsibility to protect their family’s health and their way of life while the government respected their rights and their freedom. And we are working together to create new opportunities and a better future for our kids. We took the American path.
Kristi Noem: (24:55)
Let me close with this. As conservatives, we often forget that stories are much more powerful than facts and statistics. Our stories need to be told. It is the only way that we will inspire and motivate the American people to preserve this great country. We must go into this fight for freedom with our eyes wide open, educated to the tactics the liberals will use, yet totally pure in our motives. This isn’t about us. It’s about our children and their future. It’s about the nation that we’re going to pass on to them. It’s about telling their stories over and over that remind us why America needs conservatives now more than ever. So thank you for all that you do. America is blessed to have you on her side. God bless each and every one of you and may God bless the United States of America.