Denise Juneau’s speech was not long. It wasn’t the kind of keynote talk where commentators on Fox News jump in and complain. Or those on MSNBC who proclaim the talk as the best ever. Juneau even joked about it on her Facebook page. “I speak Wednesday evening … Don’t blink, you may miss me.”
But those 10 minutes were significant, especially across Indian country. This was the first time an American Indian woman was given the opportunity to tell a story as important as any keynote.
“It looks great to be up here,” she said with a smile. “All the way from Big Sky Country. I am proud to be here as a Montanan. As an educator. As a Democrat. And as a member of the Mandan and Hidatsa Tribes.”
She also said she’s proud to be the first American Indian woman in history to win a statewide election.
She was told by her parents that education was the road to success. Her mom, Carol Juneau, is a Montana delegate.That road took her from Browning High School to Montana State University, to Harvard, and back to the University of Montana Law School. She credited teachers who advocated for her success – and now as the Superintendent of Public Instruction she now advocates for teachers.