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It was a year unlike any other, and as it comes to a close, I’ve been taking time to reflect on both the incredible challenges we’ve faced and the opportunities for the new year.

There’s no way around the tough economic hardships, the lives we’ve lost, and the difficult moments in 2020 because of the coronavirus. But there are also plenty of good stories worth remembering that could bring light and joy to the darkest of any times.

In the face of incredible challenges and uncertainty, South Dakotans stepped up every day to help our communities. Nurses, doctors, and health care professionals across the state fought the coronavirus on the front lines, whether it was in a rural hospital in South Dakota or in New York City. Essential workers from law enforcement to farmers and grocery store employees showed everyday patriotism by doing their jobs.

South Dakotans delivered food to nursing homes and volunteered to help others. And as the son of two educators, I have a particular gratitude for the teachers who have taken great lengths to help their students succeed this year, despite the pandemic.

The year comes to a close with other reasons to celebrate: coronavirus vaccines are being delivered throughout the state, and more are on the way. The virus remains serious and we aren’t in the clear yet, but the safe and effective vaccines bring hope to 2021. We should all begin the year with the same spirit we began the pandemic with, and continue to take the necessary steps to slow the spread of the virus.

As we look ahead to a new year and the 117th Congress, Congress will also need to work together. My colleagues on both sides of the aisle and I ultimately have the same goal—to improve life for all Americans. We may have different views or approaches on how to do this, but if we keep our constituents’ needs in mind, I am confident in what we can accomplish.

The year 2020 was a testament to the resilience of the American people. During these unprecedented and uncertain times, some of the best of humanity showed itself in South Dakota and across our country. I am counting these blessings as I reflect on the past year, with optimism for what 2021 has in store.

My commitment to South Dakotans will remain the same: Making sure they have a strong voice in Washington. I’ll continue to work hard and fight for what really matters to the people of our state—you have my word.

—Sen. John Thune is a Republican from South Dakota and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

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