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Congressional help towards an Eagle Scout

November 29, 2018

SPEARFISH — While working toward his rank of Eagle Scout, Spearfish Boy Scout Max Jensen, 12, isn’t cutting any corners: He’s enlisted the help of the U.S. Senate’s Majority Whip, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

“Right now I’m a first-class Scout, and Sen. Thune has been helping me towards two merit badges that have been required,” Jensen said. He explained that he wrote to Thune months ago in regards to his Citizenship in the Nation merit badge, asking for the U.S. flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol on his birthday, May 30 — and the request was granted.

“I thought it was super cool,” Jensen said, reading the certificate on the flag, which states, “This certifies that this flag was flown on May 30, 2018, AKA Max Day.”

He displays the flag in his room, and when it was time to begin working on his Citizenship in the Community merit badge and thinking about which community leader he would like to interview, Jensen’s thoughts turned again to Thune.

“He’s the senator of South Dakota, and I wanted to know a little bit more about the politics in South Dakota, and I thought it was cool that he’s the Majority Whip, and I thought it would be cool to interview him for Scouts,” Jensen said.

The phone interview was set for Nov. 21, and in preparation, the Spearfish Middle School sixth-grader researched Thune’s biography. When he realized Thune’s standing in Congress, he felt a little nervous going into the interview — but he also remembered that as a politician, Thune was likely easy to talk to, he said.

One of the questions Jensen asked Thune was what his role is as a 12-year-boy in the Spearfish community.

“He said, ‘Our role in the community as 12-year-old boys is to develop leadership skills and study hard in school and to stay informed about politics,’” Jensen said.

Jensen also noticed in his research that Thune played basketball, and since Jensen also plays basketball, he asked Thune about his experiences with the sport and learned that Thune was a forward in high school, which he thought was cool.

“I invited him to come play basketball with me,” Jensen said, adding that the senator told him that when they play, Thune will be sure to pass it to Jensen.

Jensen also asked Thune what the most important issue in the country, in his opinion, and Thune’s answer was about trying to get out of the national debt and to keep the nation protected by keeping the military strong.

“It was really easy to talk to him,” Jensen said, describing that he found Thune to be confident and well-spoken.

“I think I learned a little bit more about the country and that (politicians) do make time to help citizens … sometimes people give them (politicians) bad reps, but they’re actually really good people just trying to help out,” Jensen added.

“We were really shocked that he would take the time to do that …” Natalie Jensen, Max’s mother said, describing that though she thought Thune would be too busy for an interview with a Boy Scout, Thune’s staff responded with, “Of course he can do that.”

“Then they said, ‘It will probably be the best part of his day.’ So I thought that was really great,” she said. “I could not believe how charismatic and personable he was on the phone.”

And Thune voiced his pleasure at getting to be part of Jensen’s project.

“One of the most fulfilling parts of my job is having the chance to interact with students,” Thune said via email Tuesday. “It was a pleasure working with Max on his … merit badge project, and I think a future in public service may be ahead of him.”

Jensen hopes to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout by next December, he said, and outside of Boy Scouts, he enjoys playing basketball, basketball, and soccer – sports in general, he said, and being on the Black Hills Ski Team. When he grows up, he hopes to be an oral surgeon, as he has both doctors and dentists in his family and said that oral surgery seems like “the best of both worlds.”

Jensen said that following his interview with Thune, he is more interested in politics, and his advice to other 12-year-old is to “Be informed; study hard; stay in school. Don’t do drugs; be clean; respect your parents, and learn leadership skills and be ready to take over, because we’re the next generation.”

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