The American Legislative Exchange Council named alumna Gov. Kristi Noem as its 2021 top governor for furthering free market and small government principles.
Noem's leadership in South Dakota has garnered budget surpluses and fully funded infrastructure projects (dam repairs, rural broadband access, railroad extensions). Noem believes her nimble state should be a pilot project for conservative principles in action. Here are some highlights from Noem’s acceptance speech:

Government, the economy, and COVID-19

"It wasn't COVID that crushed the economy. Government crushed the economy when it held itself up as the savior. We were the only state that never once closed a single business throughout the pandemic. I didn't even define what an essential business was because government has [no] ability or authority to [determine] that. We didn't mandate anything or issue a shelter-in-place."

On in-laws

"When I married into the Noem family, most of them were Democrats. I took their name and ran for Congress. Today, the vast majority of them are registered Republicans. We didn’t have a change of heart because I blew them up at the Thanksgiving Day dinner table or because we fought and argued. It was because we built a relationship and we loved each other. Then we had good discussions on policy." 

Be happy, not offended

"[Conservatives] need to attract people [with] optimism and to tell our story. We live in a country that's addicted to being offended. We need to get over ourselves and start having conversations [with our loved ones] again. Start by listening, nobody feels like they're being heard anymore. Build [relationships]."

Advice to policymakers

"Don't be individuals who seek headlines, be individuals who care about the strategy. Back up [your policy] with facts and true information so [constituents] can rely on you to give them something that they'll trust in the future. People read headlines, [but] they don't read any further. I learned during the pandemic — I couldn't just make decisions. I had to educate people on why I was making those decisions. [For example, I dedicated] one whole press conference on just the Constitution."

Government’s limited role

"What kept me awake at night during the pandemic: I knew when leaders overstepped their authority, that's when we break this country. Know what your job is. Do your job. Don't do more than your job. A government that is powerful enough to do everything for you and solve all the problems of all the people is also powerful enough to take all your freedom away."


We are crippling our [future] by doing everything for [our children]. Your job is to give them an impossible thing to do, challenges, so that when they accomplish them, they [become] problem solvers, [which builds] confidence to take on the next biggest thing. That is the best gift my parents gave me.”

You can view Noem's full speech here.

Marc Ang ( is a community organizer in Southern California and the founder of Asian Industry B2B. Marc’s book Minority Retort will be released in late 2021.