Light on Trump, Sullivan aims for optimism

U.S Sen. Dan Sullivan delivers his annual address to the Alaska Legislature. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, in his annual address to the Alaska Legislature, did not say much about President Trump, and he did not bring up the issues that drove demonstrators to the steps of the state Capitol today: Trump’s policies on immigration and refugees, and what Congress intends to do about the Affordable Care Act.  Sullivan did, though, directly quote a different president.

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“When I think of the great men and women who serve our state, all of you, I’m reminded Theodore Roosevelt’s great speech, about the men and women who are in the arena,” he told the legislators. Sullivan read for them Roosevelt’s words, about the person (“man” in the original) who:

“… knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Sullivan went on to list his congressional achievements from 2016, in advancing infrastructure goals, taking care of veterans and keeping the state’s military installations strong. His main focus for this year, he said, is jobs.

“Going forward, I will be 100 percent focused on the economy, in Alaska and throughout our country,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan made just a few references to Trump. He said the president’s plans to build up the military and his resource policies will be good for Alaska job creation.

“The Trump administration has prioritized energy production, responsible resource development, and streamlining job-killing regulations as some of its top goals,” Sullivan said.

Another president he mentioned, a few times, was Barack Obama.

“When President Obama locked up almost all of Alaska’s resource development opportunities in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas over the Christmas holidays, he told Alaskans that we need to ‘move decisively away from fossil fuels,’” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said Obama was giving voice to a “dangerous ideological movement” that wants to leave resources in the ground. The senator also rebuked Obama for talking about “philanthropy” as he banned Arctic drilling.

“Relying on charity for our future is not something the great state of Alaska should ever aspire to. It is beneath us,” Sullivan said, to applause

(Obama said in a December 20 statement that the Arctic needs more investment, from the government, the private sector and “philanthropy.”)

Sullivan closed on a historical note, recounting the vision it took to buy Alaska from Russia, 150 years ago.

When asked, Sullivan said he wants to see health care coverage continue for the Alaskans who benefit from expanded Medicaid.

“That’s my general principle,” Sullivan told reporters in a press conference after his speech. “Right now there’s a lot, a LOT of kind of different approaches to how that might happen, so I’m not committing myself to any one singular approach yet.”

An Alaska Dispatch News reporter asked why he didn’t include health care or immigration in his speech. Sullivan said he focused on jobs and wanted to give legislators a sense of optimism.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at

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