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North Dakota Stockmen's Association executive vice president Julie Ellingson was Sen. John Hoeven's guest at a Feb. 28 Joint Congressional Address from President Donald Trump. Submitted photo.

Julie Ellingson reflects on attending presidential address

BISMARCK, N.D. — Julie Ellingson has watched State of the Union speeches and other presidential addresses the same way as most people: gathered around a television, thousands of miles from Capitol Hill.

The executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association had the "once-in-a-lifetime experience" to find out for herself what it's like to sit in a room with the country's elected federal leaders and hear from the president.

Senators, Ellingson explains, each get to bring a guest to presidential addresses. They can use their guest spot for whomever they wish, whether it be family members, constituents or anyone else. Sen. John Hoeven asked Ellingson to be his guest at President Donald Trump's first address to Congress on Feb. 28.

So, she made the trip to Washington, where she attended a dinner with the nation's senators, then sat in the gallery not far from the first family during the president's speech at the Capitol.

"I expected it to be fantastic, and it was even better than I expected," Ellingson says about the experience. "It's hard not to feel an overwhelming sense of pride for your country, no matter what your politics are, in that setting."

She says it was interesting to hear firsthand from the president about his plans for the future, given the movements so far since Trump took office. It also was exciting, she says, to be in Washington when Trump signed an executive order to begin rolling back the Waters of the U.S. rule.

"Regardless of what your political appetite is, it's an exciting time and an interesting time," Ellingson says.

Ellingson, her husband Chad and their five children run a seed stock business near St. Anthony, N.D. She says she was able to talk about the upcoming farm bill, trade and markets with senators and others during her trip to Washington.

"Agriculture is North Dakota's largest industry and a central part of our nation's economy," Hoeven said in a news release. "Our farmers and ranchers do a tremendous job providing food, fuel and fiber to meet our needs and Julie is a great representative of this good work."

Because security measures at such events prohibit people from bringing in cameras or phones, Ellingson was only able to get a snapshot of herself with Hoeven prior to the address. However, she says the pictures in her mind will remain a vivid reminder of her trip.

"What an incredible honor to have been asked and given a chance to elevate the concerns and priorities of North Dakota's agriculture committee," Ellingson says.