By Zoe Bundy

Kathryn Burgum is an advocate for people with addiction. Through her work with her husband, Governor Doug Burgum, they’ve reached over 2500 people in person through Recovery Reinvented. Thousands more have been reached through livestream and behind prison walls. Kathryn states, “1 in 3 people think addiction is a choice or moral failing [in ND].”

As the First Lady of North Dakota, Kathryn stays busy from speaking, traveling, and plenty of meetings. “The culture is one of continuous learning…there’s always opportunities to grow and learn new things.” The experience of her position has given her a “megaphone opportunity to reach a lot of people.” It’s helped them get the message across of how important it is to talk about addiction in order to eliminate the stigma. The platform also allows for a broader reach and network. “If I were just Kathryn Burgum calling somebody for a meeting, I might not get that meeting. It’s a lot easier when you’re the First Lady, and I’m really grateful for that.” Kathryn is thankful for the doors that have opened and opportunities that have come with it. 

Recovery Reinvented has been “a team effort.” Kathryn experienced addiction, which fueled a passion for helping people eliminate the shame around what she felt, and one that many others in ND and all over feel. The first thing they did was tell people about Kathryn’s experience was like, and remind them that she was in recovery, too. She was able to present, then Recovery Reinvented was born. The first event had 500 people, and it was the force that started the whole movement. It’s helped them “reach a whole lot of people.”

Being a female in politics, HR, and past jobs, she knows how to handle being the only woman in the room. She states from one job, “The VP of sales asked someone to cover my ears while he made some derogatory comments.” Although dealing with these issues isn’t something people want to experience, “The good news about that company is they now have several women in senior management.” With her marketing and HR backgrounds, it has helped Kathryn think about her events more creatively. “We sort of borrowed a lot from the TED and TEDx concept in terms of creating a conference that’s pretty fast paced with a lot of information, people, and speakers. We’ve augmented that further to add the arts, and music, slam poetry.” Kathryn is proud of how they have been able to share the heavy topic of addiction, but balance it with an inspiring musical event or art show. 

She has some tips for students to help stop the stigma of addiction, and reduce the shame: 

  1. Talk about it! Talk about how it has impacted your life. “It’s really about connecting with  each other.”
  2. Create platforms! Create a place where people can talk about addiction. “It takes courage to talk about it!”

Kathryn also has tips for students interested in launching a social movement: 

  1. Find similar people! “Find others that are like you, that have the same passion around what you want to accomplish, and make connections to work that way and partner.”
  2. Promote! “Social media can be used for so many good things. It can also be so negative. My hope is that for people that want to launch ideas and whatever they just use social media for good, to promote whatever the initiatives are to hopefully help people and create hope for the future.”