As we celebrate the holidays with our loved ones, we are reminded of the true reason for the season: the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. His teachings remind us to be kind to others, share our gratitude for all the good things in our lives and give back to those less fortunate. Through these acts, we can experience the real magic of Christmas.
You may be surprised to hear that Christmas magic is alive and well even in the most unlikely of places — the United States Capitol. Despite what you too often see in the news, we don’t always disagree and bicker. We certainly have our differences, but I have made many friends in Washington on both sides of the aisle. The camaraderie we share as legislators seeking to improve the lives of all Americans is amplified during the Christmas season, and we enjoy taking time out of our busy days to celebrate.
Since joining the Senate, I’ve been a regular member at weekly prayer breakfast meetings. Our group is made up of both Republicans and Democrats — we leave our politics at the door and focus on what we have in common, which is our shared faith. At a recent prayer breakfast, we celebrated Christmas by singing some of our favorite carols. I have made good friends through our prayer breakfasts — men and women I may not have gotten to know on a personal level otherwise.
The annual bipartisan Secret Santa gift exchange is another holiday tradition we celebrate on Capitol Hill. Each of us is given the name of a senator from the other party, and we all get together for a reception to exchange small gifts. This year, I was able to wrap up some of my favorite chocolates from Deadwood’s Chubby Chipmunk to give to Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware gave me a baseball cap commemorating USS Delaware SSN 791, a nuclear attack submarine that was commissioned shortly after USS South Dakota SSN 790.
Of course, none of us would be able to celebrate the holidays freely if not for our men and women in uniform. This time of year we are reminded of those who are spending the holidays away from home as they fight to protect our freedom. Our service members deserve our eternal gratitude for the sacrifices they make on behalf of our country. I spent some time this month writing holiday cards to our troops stationed overseas thanks to the American Red Cross’s Holidays for Heroes event. They set up tables in the Capitol each year for members of congress and our staffs to send warm wishes to our armed forces.
This year, our family is grateful for God’s many gifts, including our ten wonderful grandchildren who all live in the Pierre/Fort Pierre area near our home. We’re also grateful for Jean’s team of hardworking doctors and nurses who have given us hope that she will beat her cancer diagnosis. Thank you to everyone who has said a prayer for her this year. We wish all South Dakotans a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.