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Obama Lands In Alaska; Says Time Is Now To Act On Climate

President takes serious tone on climate

By Liz Ruskin, APRN

President Air Force 1 landed at Joint base Elmendorf-Richardson yesterday (MONDAY). President Barack Obama’s motorcade sped downtown, where made a speech at the Dena’ina Center about climate change. The president struck a somber note in urging global leaders to get serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Obama said Alaska’s fire season has grown by more than month since 1950, and thawing permafrost threatens the home communities of 100,000 Alaskans.

He called the Arctic the leading edge of climate change, and said if global leaders don’t act to curb carbon emissions, devastation will strike worldwide.

“We will condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair,” said Obama. “Submerged countries. Abandonned cities. Fields that no longer grow. Indigenous people who can’t carry out traditions that stretch back millennia.”

But the president says it’s not too late to avoid irreparable harm, and that the country is already moving to cleaner energy.

Obama held a roundtable meeting with more than a dozen Native leaders for about an hour before the speech at the Dena’ina Center. Kawarek CEO Melanie Bahnke had the seat next to Obama. She says their main message was to include them in decisions that affect them.

“He responded to each of us in turn and we’re looking forward to partnering with the federal government … grappling with climate change, erosion but also when we look at the opportunities that are being presented to us by increased shipping.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski was at the table for that meeting, but she says the White House didn’t coordinate with her office much, and the only announcement they notified her of in advance was the Denali name change.

“It has been difficult to make sure that Alaskan voices are heard, and that the president will be able to see a view of Alaska that’s real and genuine,” said Murkowski. “I think there’s some frustration.”

In the evening, the president’s motorcade went to south Anchorage, where Obama had dinner at the home of Alaska Dispatch News Owner Alice Rogoff.

Anchorage celebrates Presidential visit, Alaska’s cultural diversity

By JoaqlinEstus, KNBA

The mood was far from somber, though, later at the Alaska Airlines Center at University of Alaska Anchorage, Mala White sang the national anthem at a celebration of diversity and welcome party for President Obama 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. [applause]

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.

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