Fellow Alaskan –
One of the most difficult parts of my year was getting the news that Specialist Gabriel David Conde was killed in combat in Afghanistan last week. Specialist Conde was a member of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, and has served in Alaska since 2016. My heart goes out to his family and friends, and the team he served with: Byron, Toni, Donna, and I have been keeping them in our prayers. His sacrifice for his country is worthy of our highest respect.
One of the most meaningful moments of my year was being surrounded by the students of Harborview Elementary last week to sign HB 287 into law. The bill provides two years of funding for Alaska’s schools, ending the pink slip panic that Alaska’s budget crisis has created the last few years. The bipartisan group of legislators from the House and Senate who were instrumental in passing the bill walked down to join, too, including sponsor Rep. Seaton.
Walking into the gymnasium, the Tlingit Language and Culture Class greeted us with drumming, dancing, and singing. I spoke a little, and leaders from the House and Senate spoke a little. Speaker Bryce Edgmon got the gift of two hundred students (and his colleagues) singing him happy birthday, first in English, and then seamlessly followed up in Tlingit. When it came time to actually sign the bill, students crowded around the table, and I handed out as many bill signing pens as I could manage.
It was a simple and proud moment for me, and for my colleagues in the Legislature. Forward funding our schools is an accomplishment for each of us, and something all Alaskans can see hope in. It’s a point of collaboration and compromise that all of us elected leaders have been looking to get to in the last few months.
As we come to the final days in session, with solutions on the table to fix the biggest fiscal crisis Alaska has faced, the warmth and good faith in the room was very welcome. Being surrounded by curious, happy, and hopeful young Alaskans was an excellent reminder of our state’s promise, which remains unchanged. We’re blessed by abundant resources, a fierce strength of spirit, and a culture of community that rivals even our strongest political differences.
I am proud and grateful to call this state home, and look forward to our shared future.
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