President Donald J. Trump was in Alaska Thursday morning, delivering his first in-person address here since taking office.
On his way back to Washington D.C. from peace talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in Vietnam, the president stopped at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.
Standing before a crowd of service-members, Trump said he had initially debated disembarking from Air Force One.
“We’re landing and I say, ‘You know, I have a choice: I can stay in the plane and relax as we fueled up, right, as we fuel up. Or, I said, ‘How good are they out there?’ Somebody looked at me and said, ‘They’re the best.’ You’re supposed to the best, right?”
Trump received an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
“I wanted to be with you, and it’s an honor to be with you,” Trump said.
Standing in front of an F-22 fighter jet, the president spoke for about 20 minutes on a wide range of topics, some general and some specific to Alaska.
“My grandfather was up in Alaska for a long time. He was looking for gold. He was searching for gold. He didn’t find it. But he started opening up little hotels for those looking for gold,” Trump said. “Maybe that’s why I’ve always had a very special place in my heart for Alaska.”
The president had high praise for members of the armed forces and spoke at length about his administration’s accomplishments for the military, both domestically and abroad. In Alaska, that includes dozens of F-35s and money for missile defense coming into the state in the next few years. He also touted his administration’s decision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. And he had kind words for Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
“He’s not only one of the best governors in the United States, he’s definitely the largest,” Trump said, referring to Dunleavy’s height. “Look at that man, he’s all man, look at him.”
Trump congratulated Dunleavy on his election victory in November, and thanked him for attending the event on last-minute notice.
“He heard I was going to stop and he got on a plane and was able to get here, and that’s a great honor.”
The governor had a one-on-one meeting with Trump.
Footage of the speech was made public through the Pentagon’s Defense Information Visual Distribution Service.
The president spent a large share of his speech touting the strength of the national economy. He did not address nuclear talks with North Korea, which reportedly ended abruptly after no deal was reached.