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Speech: Rural Providers Conference

Location: Dillingham, AK

Thank you for that very warm welcome. It's an honor to be back in Dillingham and to be welcomed by this community, and by everybody who came in for the Memorial Day service and ceremony honoring the Alaska Territorial Guardsmen, that we did just a few hours ago.

It reminded me of this circle of life spoken of earlier. This last Saturday, I joined my parents and went to the grave of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother, who lived off the land as farmers, and it reminded me of the circle of life. We live and we die, and others live on, here on earth after we're gone. It starts to impact you when you start thinking about living lives beyond ourselves, and why we're here together.

So I just want to congratulate this Rural Providers Conference for your focus on sobriety, because it was my grandfather who was an alcoholic, who affected my father, who made a change in his life, who impacted my life positively. I know from our own family experience that it is possible to make a change in families, and so I congratulate you for making that a centerpiece of your efforts here.

When I came into Dillingham today I stopped by the State Troopers office, as I sometimes do, and I asked, "How is it going? What are you seeing? Where can I help you?"

I said, "Tell me: What are the last reports that you just wrote up, and what were the factors in your last reports?" The trooper said two things: Alcohol and domestic violence. So you guys are right on target with your focus here.

I just want to take you into this other arena that we have spent so much time and effort on, because they're related: Domestic violence and sexual assault, because this is a fight that we will continue to wage until every Alaskan is free of fear, until every Alaskan has hope and opportunity.

It's not a battle we take lightly. It's a battle that impacts us all -- men, women, boys, girls -- everybody in this state. If I asked every one of you whose lives or whose families' lives have been affected by domestic violence and sexual assault to stand up, I bet we would have a similar response here as we did just now with alcohol.

I'm here to tell you that there's hope in this state. I'm here tell you that Alaskans are stepping up to fight this epidemic. I was so proud of Alaskans in March when over 120 communities stepped forward and participated in Choose Respect, including this one.

Let me tell you about that. The mere act of putting a poster up in one community in Southwest Alaska resulted in one person making a phone call to get help in that community, to stop that evil within their own household. Just one poster saying, "Come join us at this Choose Respect rally."

We could fund state programs, and we are doing that. We're spending nearly $12 million this year on prevention and intervention efforts, but it's really up to us Alaskans to step forward when it comes to alcohol, when it comes to domestic violence and sexual assault.

I want you as Alaskans to spread a message even wider than we have thus far when it comes to these crimes of domestic violence and sexual assault. And I want you to hear it from me, as your governor: If you"re a victim or survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, you should not feel shame or guilt. I understand that you do, but that guilt and that shame is not yours. Understand that from me.

And you, as providers, please tell your friends and neighbors who are in this situation that this shame and guilt is not theirs to bear. And that you are willing to bear it with them and lift that load from them, because it doesn't belong on them, and it doesn't belong on you.

As Alaskans, we have a lot to look forward to. We have a lot to look forward to because people like you are willing to step forward and step up when it comes to alcohol, and domestic violence and sexual assault. And I say, "Thank you." Thank you for your personal efforts. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of Alaskans around you. Thank you for caring enough about Alaskans.

This is about our heart for Alaska. It's about Alaskans' heart for Alaskans. It's not about me as your governor, even though I have a huge heart for Alaskans and a huge love for Alaskans. It's about OUR heart for Alaskans. So thank you for taking the time this week to make it a priority. Thank you for going to the expense to make it a priority.

My wife Sandy wishes she could be with us today. She took ill this week, and could not fly. But I did bring John Moller with me, and he is going to stay with you for some time during this conference. If you have any issues that you would like to speak with him about, in respect to our administration, and how we could be of better assistance when it comes to sobriety, when it comes to domestic violence and sexual assault, when it comes to wellness in our communities, please speak with John. He will speak with me. And we'll work with you. We will continue this teamwork effort together to bring wellness to Alaskans.

One of the ways we can ensure a more healthy Alaska, and more healthy communities, is to ensure that Alaska Native languages are preserved, restored and revitalized. And today I brought with me Senator [Donald] Olson's bill that will help us accomplish these goals.

Senate Bill 130, a bill sponsored by Senator Donny Olson, will establish the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council.

Senator Olson could not join us for the signing in Dillingham today, but I want to invite Representative Bryce Edgmon up here, and Ralph Anderson, please come join me on behalf of AFN and the community at large, I am going to be signing SB 130 and completing this legislation.

We know that without language preservation, a culture dies. That is intolerable; that is not acceptable. As Alaskans we honor and celebrate our traditional cultures. Today we do this by assuring that the state is now "all in" in making sure that these languages live on.

Senator Olson championed this bill through the Legislature. Representative Edgmon was the first cross-sponsor in the House on this legislation. And now it's a matter of law that the state is "all-in" in restoring and revitalizing the Alaska Native languages.

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