When my grandson, Henry, turned one year old in July, our family and friends gathered with us to celebrate his special day. We enjoyed a nice meal together and then watched Henry attempt to eat his birthday cake and open his presents. As a one-year-old, Henry probably doesn't quite grasp the birthday concept yet, but it was important for us to celebrate.
Regardless of our age, we should all take the time to recognize the significant milestones in our lives. Whether it's a birthday, anniversary, confirmation or graduation, it's important for loved ones to come together and celebrate.
One momentous occasion worth celebrating is quickly approaching us -- South Dakota is about to reach its 125th anniversary.
More than 125 years ago, Arthur C. Mellette, who would later become the state's first governor, had a vision for the southern half of the Dakota Territory and led the movement for statehood. When a friend of Mellette's -- U.S. Senator Benjamin Harrison -- was elected to the presidency, South Dakota was admitted into the Union.
Gov. Mellette and the first South Dakotans struggled in those first few years. Drought and overly-optimistic predictions of settlement negatively impacted the economy and hurt farmers and ranchers. Additionally, the first Governor dealt with tension from tragedies like the Wounded Knee Massacre and the murder of Sitting Bull.
There were also the difficulties of establishing a new government, convening the first Legislature and enforcing new laws. Things looked especially dim a few years later, when the state's second state treasurer stole all of the money from the state treasury and escaped to Mexico. Even though Mellette was not responsible for the theft, he donated almost all of his own property to replenish the state's funds.
Although there was only one Arthur Mellette, South Dakota's history is full of people like him -- people who worked hard and did the right thing, even in the face of adversity. Thanks to those brave and resilient citizens -- the Mellettes of past generations -- today South Dakota is a place of opportunity and prosperity.
As we prepare for this significant milestone, I hope South Dakotans will reflect on the many stories of our past and take the time to celebrate how far we have come as a state.
If you have ideas on how we can celebrate South Dakota's 125th anniversary of statehood in 2014, I hope you will take a few moments to share those ideas with South Dakota's 125th Anniversary of Statehood Commission. You can share your ideas by visiting the commission's website at www.125.sd.gov or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also mail your ideas to the Governor's Office at 500 East Capitol Avenue, Pierre, SD 57501.