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First Lady Kathryn  Burgum

First Lady Kathryn Burgum

First Lady of North Dakota

First Lady Kathryn Burgum

First Lady of North Dakota


Kathryn Burgum became First Lady on December 15, 2016, when her husband Governor Doug Burgum was sworn in as the 33rd Governor of North Dakota. As First Lady, Kathryn's priority is supporting and developing initiatives to eliminate the shame and stigma of the chronic disease of addiction in North Dakota's communities.

In long-term recovery for 17 years, she shares her personal experience and encourages others to do the same to normalize the conversation around the disease of addiction. She is spreading the word that addiction is a chronic disease and not a character flaw. Kathryn plays an active role in supporting the Office of Recovery Reinvented as the chair of the Advisory Council.

Her advocacy work has enabled her to partner with advocates, experts in the field, and stakeholders nation-wide including the White House, Faces and Voices of Recovery, the Addiction Policy Forum, and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation where she serves on the board of trustees.

The second youngest of four children, Kathryn grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota, where her family was in the John Deere business for over 35 years. She held her first job at the family business working in the parts department. She graduated with honors from Jamestown High School, where she was involved in student council, choir, varsity tennis, and cheerleading.

She earned her undergraduate degree in retail business at Arizona State University and a master’s of business administration degree in human resources from the University of North Texas. Her 25-year career in human resources and marketing has spanned industries, including retail, biotechnology, software, manufacturing, agriculture and real estate development.

Over her life, Kathryn has donated her time and leadership to many charitable endeavors including at-risk women and children, animal welfare, visionary artists and the arts, and addiction and recovery. Kathryn enjoys reading, fishing, horses, snowboarding and is an avid college football fan.

Speaker Videos

TEDx: Eliminating the Shame and Stigma of Addiction

Reinventing Recovery in North Dakota

White House Opioid Summit

White House Empowering Women Symposium

The Disease of Addiction

Shame, Stigma, and Discrimination

Speech Topics

Addiction & Recovery

First Lady Burgum shares her lived experience battling the disease of addiction and the power and hope she found in recovery. The First Lady relates to others through recounting the story of her addiction to alcohol that started in high school and followed her into adulthood and her professional career. Her 17 years of recovery has granted her wisdom, gratitude, and the passion to advocate for those impacted by addiction.

Eliminating the Stigma Surrounding Addiction

Central to her platform as First Lady of North Dakota, Kathryn has made it her mission to end the shame and stigma surrounding addiction. Her core messages of advocacy are addiction is a disease, not a choice or moral failing; talking about addiction will end stigma and empower others to reach out for help; and being a public face and voice of recovery creates a supportive culture that reinforces recovery.

The Opioid Crisis

First Lady Burgum has been active in the national conversations surrounding the opioid crisis. Having been present at the White House in October 2017 when President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, she has continued to engage with the administration and national stakeholders on solutions. The First Lady shares her outlook on how eliminating stigma surrounding addiction can help end the opioid crisis by encouraging more people to connect to treatment and recovery services. She has offered her insight to end the crisis with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, the Surgeon General and at events such as the Cross-Border Health Foundation United States-Canada Opioid Crisis Roundtable and the Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit.

Advocacy Through Storytelling

The First Lady has been a trailblazer in North Dakota and beyond by sharing her story of addiction and recovery to galvanize a grassroots movement of people sharing their own stories to eliminate stigma. She maintains that storytelling is a powerful tool to eliminate stigma, reshape perspectives, and encourage decision makers to craft policy that helps those who share a similar story. The First Lady shows that anyone can be an advocate by being vulnerable in sharing their story.