Someone You Should Know: South Dakota’s First Presidential Leadership Scholar


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – She’s been a television reporter, advertising company owner, candidate for mayor and mom to a two-year-old. Now, she’s a Presidential Leadership Scholar.

No one would ever accuse Jolene Loetscher of sitting still.

The last six months have been a blur for Loetscher and husband, Nate Burdine, who has been holding down the fort, so to speak. Late last year, Loetscher got the news. She, along with 57 others from around the country, was chosen to become a Presidential Leadership Scholar.

“The Presidential Leadership Scholars Program is a program that allows a diverse and bipartisan group of leaders from around the country to come together,” said Loetscher, “and learn through the lens of leadership of President George H.W. Bush, President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton and President Lyndon Johnson.”


Speaking of President Johnson, no, she didn’t meet LBJ, but his lifelike image at his presidential library left an impression. Loetscher did meet Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She says while meeting with the former presidents, she was reminded that they are just people too.

“They laugh and they joke, it is probably ironic that I would say that given that I was a TV journalist and so I know that,” said Loetscher. “However, I think the other big takeaway that I had was that they believe, like as much as I do, that fundamentally we can be an incredible nation and continue to be when we just have conversations with people who may come from different points of view.”

Along with meeting two living presidents, the experience included visits to four presidential libraries and learning opportunities with former white house staffers. Loetscher says she plans to bring what she learned back home and put it to use.

“For me, that project was continuing to take the work that started as Jolene’s Law, which was advocating for victims of child sexual abuse that became the Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment, and taking that work and continuing to advocate that in the state of South Dakota we are committed to end child abuse by the year 2026,” she said.

She is hoping someone will follow in her footsteps and become the 2nd Presidential Leadership Scholar from South Dakota.

“So, I am the first which was an incredible honor, but I hope I’m not the last.”

The goal of the program is to apply the lessons in leadership learned from the presidents, their families and their staffs. Applications for the 2020 program are due on August 31st, 2019. You can find more information at the Presidential Leadership Scholars website.

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