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Anchorage celebrates Presidential visit, Alaska’s cultural diversity

By JoaqlinEstus, KNBA  

Following a speech by President Obama on climate change, the mood at the Alaska Airlines Center at University of Alaska Anchorage was far from somber. Mala White sang the national anthem at a celebration of diversity and welcome party for the President hosted by the Alaska Federation of Natives and dozens of other community organizations. She was followed by Shalena Hansen singing "The Alaska Flag."

The president wasn't able to attend, but that didn't seem to dampen the spirits of the 2,500-some people who gathered at the Alaska Airlines stadium at UAA.

Emcee Nicole Borromeo, of the Alaska Federation of Natives, introduced Governor Bill Walker, who was exultant as he described his flight from Washington, DC with president Obama.

“I think the moment was climbing up the stairs onto Air Force One, it was like, Wow. That was [applause] Yes, I did that. That was an Alaska boy. It was a pretty big deal for an Alaska boy to so anyway, it was really, the whole day was surreal."

Lt. Governor Byron Mallott spoke to the event's theme "Rising Together:"

“We are a state, that as we have all just witnessed celebrates the greatest diversity in the United States of America,” said Mallott. “We have language, and colors, and people, their beauty, beliefs, values and cultures like nowhere else on earth and we must celebrate it." 

Elsa Sargento of the non-profit organization Bridge Builders, led the audience in a pledge to support diversity, “We the people of Anchorage Alaska... [crowd repeats] pledge to respect one another.”

The audience also heard from speakers including Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell; Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz; Wanda Laws of the NAACP; and Art Sosa, of the Hispanic Affairs Council of Alaska.

Emcee Mao Tosi of Alaska Pride Youth Programs, introduced the Samoan Catholic Community dancers as his "cousins."

Mexican dancers, Japanese drummers, Alaska Native and Indonesian dancers, and many other groups also performed. The Men's Unity Choir of the First CME church also performed.