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Barack Obama comes to South Dakota on Friday. We are the 50th state he has visited in his presidency.
Barack Obama comes to South Dakota on Friday. We are the 50th state he has visited in his presidency.

Welcome, Mr. President

May 5, 2015

By Bernie Hunhoff

Mr. President, welcome to South Dakota. You’ll be landing Air Force One on Friday in the center of our great USA. The official geographic center is near Belle Fourche, a six-hour car drive straight west of where you’ll speak in Watertown.
    In between are farms and ranches, towns and small cities — all populated by mostly hard-working and decent people who don’t expect much of the Washington whence you come.
    Oh, we’ll take what we can get when offered. We’ve seen enough hard times — droughts, floods, hail storms and tornadoes — to know that you don’t bite anybody’s hand. But we don’t expect much. Most of us were raised with the belief that the next government check — like the next rain — might be the last for awhile, and we’re ok with that.
    We figure we'd have the same number of farmers and ranchers if Washington had never sent a nickel through an ag program. We farm because we farm. For the sake of pure patriotism, we'd host Ellsworth Air Force Base for the nation even if it didn’t add a dime to the economy. Our Native American citizens would still call places like Pine Ridge and Standing Rock their home even if you tore up the treaties and never spent another dollar on the rez. And we would have probably allowed you (I say “you” because as president, you represent the government to us) to flood our middle section of the state by the four Missouri River dams even if we didn’t get some fine walleye fishing in exchange.
    As a state senator, I can promise you that we’d find a way to balance our state budget if we lost the 40% that comes from Washington. It wouldn’t be easy, but we’d survive the same way we dig out of blizzards. One shovel after another. Our senior citizens appreciate Medicare and Social Security, but the cost of living is lower here so we’d probably even get by without those wonderful perks.
    Washington is a million miles away from our daily lives.
    I wish you had a a day or two to spend in South Dakota. You could take federal Highway 212 from Watertown and drive to Belle Fourche, past the most cussedly independent folks on our planet. Most of them don’t belong to your political party, but you could stop in any small town or pull into any farm driveway and you’d be met with the biggest smiles you’ve ever enjoyed. As a Democrat, you’d love the giant concrete donkey at Tinkertown, just west of Watertown, and the immense fiberglass pheasant at Redfield.
    As you cross the great Missouri, America’s grandest river, you’ll enter the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, one of the places where our government sent the Lakota. It hasn’t worked well from most viewpoints. Capitalism hasn’t taken root. Health care is a disaster. Alcoholism is a problem. But it is Home to the Lakota, with a capital H. The reservation people face many challenges, but it wouldn't take you long to find very spiritual and determined people who are working to make things better for the next generation.
    The Cheyenne also marks the gateway to true cowboy country. On down Highway 212, you’ll want to stop for a hot beef sandwich and some conversation at the Faith Livestock Auction Barn. The salty ranchers of West River are everything Ronald Reagan dreamed of being.
    South Dakotans neither love or hate the government you run. Likewise, most neither love or hate you. Oh, we have a few political nut cakes. But fewer than most places. Most South Dakotans are too busy with daily life to think a lot about Washington and all your problems.
    But don’t get me wrong. I welcome you to South Dakota. We all welcome you. We’re always happy when folks come here and spend some money, just as we like a good rain.


03:59 pm - Tue, May 5 2015
jan said:
Well it's a concrete pheasant at tinkertown. And why can't we enjoy that he's in our state as a whole. I don't remember everyone complaining when a president visits Mt Rushmore or Sioux Falls. Gee, I am as excited as a schoolgirl and I am not! (A schoolgirl.) I am 65 and thrilled to be close enough to a sitting President for the first time in my life To actually see him. I will be the old girl with grandchildren waving flags and smiling. Let me have my fun.
04:35 pm - Tue, May 5 2015
anonymous said:
jan, there's a pheasant and a donkey at Tinkertown .... or was the last time we were there? We should have mentioned the pheasant too. Glad you have a chance to see the President, enjoy the special day in SD history.
08:30 pm - Tue, May 5 2015
anonymous said:
I hope the president gets to read your article. :)
08:49 pm - Tue, May 5 2015
Dom W said:
Well Bernie that's a good article except for the fact you're out of touch with reality. Truth is, hardly any hard working South Dakotans in our fine state support our sub par president or the lackluster excuse of a government he *attempts* to run. But you can keep brown nosing the big man in hopes of publicity. Maybe you should visit these towns you speak of in your article and ask people of their opinions rather than put words in their mouths. I'd love to see quotes from a truly random audience. Other than that you did a great job showing us patriots how much you care about the country your new man crush has tried to ruin.
09:03 pm - Tue, May 5 2015
anonymous said:
I don't care how anyone in particular has to feel about the president, he is the president of the great country we live in. Also as a resident of Watertown it is a pretty big honor that he has decided to come here out of all places.
09:07 pm - Tue, May 5 2015
mark Remily said:
Well written Bernie, I am proud to be a fellow South Dakotan and democrat.
05:42 am - Wed, May 6 2015
Well done. Great article.
05:56 am - Wed, May 6 2015
Wilma Luce said:
What a great article Mr Hunfoff! Mr President please visit our wonderful state again and bring your family.
06:28 am - Wed, May 6 2015
Rod B. said:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but according to the author's statement: "South Dakotan's neither love or hate the government you run. Likewise, most neither love or hate you. Oh, we have a few political nut cakes." because I fervently appose the charlatan that calls himself our president, I'm a "political nut cake." Good to know. Who is this guy who claims to speak for all South Dakotan's? I don't remember receiving a poll to ask me my opinion. Anyone else?
07:59 am - Wed, May 6 2015
Marsha Peterson said:
Excellent letter Bernie! The South Dakota residents are good hardworking people who welcome visitors no matter who they are. This really is the "Home of the free and the brave"!
08:48 am - Wed, May 6 2015
anonymous said:
Only 7 more states to go !
08:52 am - Wed, May 6 2015
Bernie said:
Rod, we have a few political nut cakes on both sides of the spectrum. I wasn't singling out the right ... and certainly not you. You don't sound too nutty?
10:04 am - Wed, May 6 2015
Marilyn Lofflin said:
Great article, Bernie, except one thing. Social security and Medicare are not perks. We paid for them our whole working lives, and we deserve to receive them now.
10:04 am - Wed, May 6 2015
Marilyn Lofflin said:
Great article, Bernie, except one thing. Social security and Medicare are not perks. We paid for them our whole working lives, and we deserve to receive them now.
11:02 am - Wed, May 6 2015
Bernie said:
I agree, perk is the wrong word. Thanks Marilyn. I'm only a year away from those benefits so I should know better, right!
02:25 pm - Wed, May 6 2015
Leah Swanson said:
What a great article! Unfortunately there seem to be quite a few people who don't see this for what it is, a wonderful gift to the graduates of LATI, & see it as their personal opportunity to show everyone else how ignorant they are & to see who will win the President-bashing contest. Good on you for highlighting the positive!
06:17 pm - Wed, May 6 2015
You've got that right Bernie! We may have hard times but we have survived and we love our Homelands from Rosebud to Sisseton. It's truly his loss for not Taking more time . Pila may aye ,thanks Mr. President for stopping by and thanks Bernie for reminding us just how "rich" we are!
06:49 pm - Wed, May 6 2015
Mary Lou B said:
Thank you for taking time to represent South Dakota in a positive way. I enjoy being a South Dakota Magazine subscriber.
12:30 am - Thu, May 7 2015
laurel Lawrence said:
IMAGINE, He will visit us. Makes me special as ranched in Fall River County for 40 years and still struggling to pay property tax.
07:33 pm - Thu, May 7 2015
Albert Smith said:
A long time subscriber and especially enjoy that 30th. Anniversary issue. I am glad about the President coming to my home state. It's still home to me!
02:18 pm - Mon, June 1 2015
Proud South Dakotan said:
Thank you for reminding us of one of the reasons we choose to live in this state - The wonderful, caring, independent, and opinionated South Dakota people. Some of our people are truly unique and whether they are political or non-political, I appreciate the spice they bring to our lives.

I'd like to think that the majority of South Dakota residents are instilled with enough good old fashioned hospitality to recognize that it is important to say a friendly "Howdy" to everyone visiting our state, especially when it is the President of our country - Even if we might have a difference of opinion with him. Thanks, Bernie!

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