TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2014
As always, I loved making the most of my time while in the state in the last month. Connecting with Alaskans day in and day out keeps me informed about what’s happening in your communities and the current issues you face. I definitely didn’t mind the unusually warm November weather…especially when I’m walking my dog at night.
Now, it’s back to D.C. for me as the Senate heads back into session. We have a lot of work to do!
Alaska Federation of Natives Convention
This year’s Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage was a week of renewal for me. Our one-on-one conversations, getting to connect with you and hear from you, helps me better communicate your story with others as I go back to Washington, D.C.
Whether watching the dancers at Quyana or walking around the arts and crafts hall, I really enjoyed catching up with so many of you (I even did a little bit of shopping).
I love the rich cultural diversity at AFN. It is a great family reunion, and I look forward to seeing you all again in 2015!
(I was thankful to have the opportunity to address the AFN convention, and encouraged attendees to set on a course toward making positive changes when it comes to safety, subsistence, and suicide.)
(Talking with Joe Williams of Saxman—a great tribal leader!)
(Every year I pay a visit to Ursula and Janice Paniyak, originally from Chevak. They carry on a family tradition of making special dolls. The one I bought this year is a woman with her honeybucket. Though I love their handiwork, I am determined to do away with honeybuckets.)
(Having fun on the first night of Quyana!)
(Quyana will always be one of my favorite parts of AFN. I love watching so many dance groups from across the state perform. It’s hard to sit out the invitational dances.)
(With VPSO John Pleasant of Bethel. Our brave and committed village public safety officers play such a vital role in rural communities.)
Catching Up with Many of You at AFN
Arctic Circle 2014
I was honored to represent the U.S. Senate at the Arctic Circle Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, earlier this month. America’s Arctic Representative Admiral Papp also attended and we both spoke on Arctic issues, as did other international leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Iceland President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, and Finland President Sauli Niinistö.
It was a great opportunity to gather with national and international Arctic leaders to engage on so many issues that are important to us. To have Alaskan representation at the Arctic Circle was key as we are the state that makes the U.S. an Arctic nation.
(Click image to watch my speech at the Arctic Circle Conference.)
(Admiral Papp and I shared a few moments talking about Arctic engagement and opportunity.)
As Alaskans, we have the honor of being surrounded by veterans, more so per capita than any other state in the nation. On Veterans Day, and every day, we should thank those who have served us and who give truth to the words “Freedom is not free”.
Words will never be enough to thank our veterans for their selfless actions in making the decision to serve our country, their courage during active duty, and their commitment to our communities when they return home. One of the best ways we can show our gratitude for our veterans is by asking what we, as individuals and as a community, can do for them. We should remember to live every day appreciating the freedoms and liberties that our military has secured for us and continues to protect.
Thank you to those who have served.
(Visiting with Father Elliott, one of our honored WWII veterans, who recently went to Washington, D.C. as part of the Honor Flight.)
(I commemorated Veterans Day by attending the Veterans Day ceremony at JBER. Verdie Bowen, State Veterans Affairs Director, challenged us to commit to not letting our veterans become invisible. Important words and a challenge to all Alaskans!)
(After attending a Canadian Remembrance Day ceremony at the National Cemetery on Fort Richardson, I paid my respects to my aunt who served our nation as a Captain in the U.S. Navy.)
(Veterans and those who are currently serving, along with their family, friends, and the Mat-Su community listened to guest speaker Marjorie Ream, Lt. Col. Retired, U.S. Air Force, at the Veteran’s Wall of Honor in the Mat-Su Valley.)
(My staff participated in Veterans Day activities across the state: on the Kenai Peninsula, in Southeast, and the Interior. This picture is taken by one of my staff members at a Veterans Day parade in Ketchikan.)
(With Rick and Jennifer Casillo, organizers of the Battle Dawgs Racing & Healing Hearts Benefit in Anchorage. The event was an effort to raise money to put wounded warriors at both the start and the finish of the 2015 Iditarod. And it’s more than that. Suicide among our veterans is an epidemic that needs to be addressed, and that’s exactly what organizers behind the event aim to do. Currently, 22 veterans and members of the military take their lives every day. Proceeds from the event will not only bring veterans to Alaska to have incredible Alaskan adventures, but to also show them their lives still have purpose.)
While driving down the Turnagain Arm, I recorded video of two surfers riding the bore tide. What an amazing place we live in!
(Click image to watch video.)