Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula
marked an historic occasion this past week as President Barack Obama paid a three-day visit to our state.
First, we’d like to note that, regardless of your politics, a visit from the President of the United States is a thrill, and we’re glad the Kenai Peninsula was a part of it.
Of course, President Obama came with his own agenda, highlighting the effects of climate change across the state. His visit pretty much stuck to the script — he spoke at a climate change conference in Anchorage, saw retreating glaciers near Seward, talked with subsistence fishermen and their families in Dillingham, and saw a seawall built to withstand greater storm surges in Kotzebue.
In fact, President Obama wasn’t here so much to learn about Alaska himself, but rather to use what’s happening here in an effort to spur action elsewhere. It’s an attitude that tends to rankle Alaskans, regardless of who the visitor happens to be.
But, like many visitors who come to Alaska with preconceived notions of what they’ll find, we hope what President Obama discovered is that this state is more vibrant and rich than what’s depicted on reality TV or in reruns of “Northern Exposure” — and that the challenges we face and potential solutions are much more complex.
During his visit, President Obama commented that he’d like to come back to Alaska with his wife and daughter. While we can’t read the president’s mind, we hope that sentiment is sincere, and that, with his visit, he has come to the realization that there’s much more to the story to be explored. Alaska tends to have that effect on people.
Now, we’re not advocating that a popular recreation area or boat harbor be shut down again so the president and his family can go for a hike or go whale watching.
What we are saying is that so many decisions about Alaska’s future — from energy to education to resource development to health care — are being made by people based on what they think they know about Alaska, whether those assumptions are accurate or not.
President Obama’s visit has made quite an impression on Alaska. We hope what he found here in Alaska has left just as lasting an impression on him.