This story was updated to include information from Gov. Noem’s press secretary received after the story was first published.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Governor Kristi Noem was in Paris on Friday, Nov. 10, to give the closing remarks at the Worldwide Freedom Initiative summit. The event featured “like-minded conservative, patriotic and center right leaders,” according to the organization.

Her closing speech came after hours of conservative leaders from America, France and other European countries held panels on free speech, globalism, election strategy and illegal immigration. 

Ian Fury, Noem’s chief of communications, told KELOLAND News in an email on Wednesday, Nov. 15 that the trip was not funded by taxpayer dollars.

Noem’s 30-minute speech detailed her unconventional approach to the COVID pandemic, conservative principles in South Dakota government and the recent conflicts in Israel, Ukraine and China. 

“I remind people consistently every day in my state that if we don’t hang on to the ideals that form the foundation of this country, where will we go? Where will we go that will give us more opportunity, more freedom, more personal responsibility than the United States of America,” Noem said during her speech in Paris. 

Noem claimed she was the only governor in the states to make her decisions about COVID-19 based on the constitution and said she spent time with constitutional attorneys to understand what authority she had as a governor. The result is that South Dakota was the only state to not mandate closings, she said. 

“I stood up in front of my people and told them that we were going to embrace personal responsibility,” Noem said. “I didn’t even define what an essential business was because I don’t believe that governors have the authority to tell you that your business isn’t essential.”

During her speech, Noem praised the state’s growing population, new housing developments, lack of income and personal property taxes and lower unemployment. She attributed these accomplishments to staying true to conservative principles.

“What I believe happened in our state is that we just did what conservatives have always said they believed, but we did it and we proved that it works, that it really is better for families, it really is better for businesses, that it is better for those who want to be happier,” she said. 

“See, because our people were free, they were happier, they were able to make personal responsibility choices for themselves and their families,” she added. 

A major theme of Noem’s speech was South Dakota being a “beacon of light” for other states and the rest of the world. She brought up the Statue of Liberty, which France gave to the U.S., and how it’s full name is “Liberty Enlightening the World.” She urged the conservative leaders in attendance to take South Dakota’s political system as an example and implement conservative ideals into their own governments. 

“In South Dakota, because we made very different decisions than any other state did, it’s lighting the way for how to be economically successful, how to embrace liberty and freedom,” she said. “But we don’t do that and then turn and not talk about it. We have to continue to carry that testimony forward so that, like the Statue of Liberty, we’re holding it high as an example.”

Noem pointed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Hamas attacking Israel and China “grabbing more and more power” as countries that could benefit from South Dakota’s conservative example.

“We have to continue to live this beacon of light so that other people recognize that there is a different path than those conflicts that we have so we avoid a future conflict that would be one larger than the war to end all wars,” Noem said. 

The governor also praised former President Trump for how he ran the country during COVID. Trump let Noem do her job, she said, but if the Biden Administration was in office at that time, Noem believes Biden would have forced her to shut down businesses. 

“When President Trump was in the White House, I was on offense,” Noem said. “I could be creative, I could figure out how to cut regulations that made us more efficient, how to give people more opportunities. … Under Joe Biden, what has happened now is instead I spend most of my time just trying to defend the people in my state.”

According to the Worldwide Freedom Initiative’s website, Noem is listed as being “on Trump’s Vice President Shortlist,” but she dodged the question twice on whether she would run with the former president in 2024.