I love learning about history. When I see the granite faces on Mount Rushmore, I always want to learn more about the men enshrined there. When I walk through downtown Rapid City and see the bronze statues of our presidents, I want to learn more about each of their successes and failures. I love the stories — and we can learn powerful lessons from those stories.
At times, history can be a refreshing reminder that the difficulties that we face are not wholly unique. There are often corollaries in the past, lessons to be learned from situations that mirror the present challenges that we face.
America’s history is unique when compared to every other nation on the planet. To this day, we are the only nation founded on an idea — and a transformational idea at that. It’s an idea that has inspired nations the world over, one that even inspires the people of Ukraine today: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
Unfortunately, our nation’s appreciation for that founding idea has slipped over time. This isn’t a new phenomenon; President Reagan warned us of it in his farewell address: “We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise — and freedom is special and rare.” We need to remind our children about those freedoms and why they were instituted in the first place.
In particular, our children should learn the struggles our nation faced to implement those freedoms and the triumphs that were made in advancing them to folks who had not enjoyed them previously. Sometimes that history is tough, but it must be told for future generations to understand why this country is worth fighting for.
In the process of teaching that history, we should not compel our children to adhere to the false narrative that they are responsible for those previous shortcomings — not on the basis of their race, color, or sex. Such a philosophy is not in keeping with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful dream, “that (his) four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” That is the America that I was raised in, and that is the America that I am proud to pass on to my children and to my granddaughter.
This week, I signed an executive order to restrict the teaching of divisive ideologies like Critical Race Theory in our K-12 classrooms. These ideologies reject America’s founding idea and instead teach that America was founded on racism — and that is not true.
At various times in our history, America fell short of the founding belief that all men are created equal. And together, our nation overcame those shortcomings. It is on us as a society — and on each elected leader — to commit to defending American liberty for every person in this country. That is my commitment to you as Governor.
Our children should learn America’s true and honest history. I hope that it will inspire them to accomplish incredible things with their lives and to always recognize that all of their peers are just as valuable as they are — no better and no worse. We all have incredible opportunities in this Land of the Free. The lessons from our past should inspire us to reach for those opportunities and teach us the mistakes to avoid along the way.