STURGIS, S.D. — Francie Ganje a former member of the America’s ‘Youth in Concert’ was a attending high school in Eagle Butte when she tried out and was chosen to be on the tour.
Ganje says, “For me to find myself then in the White House or as it turned out really so many stops along the way, where it was infused with a pride of place to be an American to represent the flag, that was…it was just wonderful for me.”
It was a time when America was torn from the controversy of the Vietnam War. Young men 18 years of age were being drafted to serve in the Armed Forces but could not vote.
Ganje adds, “If we are going to send people off to fight and die, they should be able to vote, so that was the mindset shared throughout the country and to a great extent, throughout the group Young Americans in Concert, we were a group of 500 kids representing the entire scope – the length of the United States so within that there would have certainly been awareness on our part.”
The group consisted of the best music students in the U.S. of choir, band, and orchestra. Francie says that the Midwest and South Dakota in particular has quite a representation and that the White House performance really set the tone for the rest of the tour.
She shares a story of people in France coming up to some in the group after an impromptu performance and saying thank you America for what you did for us.
“It’s one thing when you are living in a country and you say and hear you know, how lucky you are, but it’s another thing to travel and then understand how really lucky you are.”
The students were invited to witness the fireworks over the Potomac from the White House lawn and turned somewhat loose inside the White House and also given a commemorative pen.
Ganje says, “I remember as much about our time in the White House, simply because at that time you could meander you know, you could mosey around, it’s not like it is now and that was fun, that was absolutely fun – we all though did get a pen from the President. I enjoyed his remarks as much as anything because he talked about you know there was a responsibility as we moved forward on that tour to bring the ideals of you know America to other parts of the world.”