Ahead of President Obama's visit to Alaska, we asked Alaska Dispatch News readers to register their own thoughts on two questions. Answers ran the gamut, and there was so many of them that publishing a representative sample of the most notable responses will take more than one installment in print. A selection of the most instructive comments sent via social media have been collected in full online. Great thanks to readers for being so thoughtful and so frank. So, then, Alaska, what should the president know right up front if he wants to best understand this place and its people? And what do you hope he'll learn during his visit?
Help us to keep Alaska wild
Thank you for coming to Alaska.
I am fortunate to have lived in this incredibly beautiful state for 36 years and plan to live out my life here.
Contrary to what is often said, not everyone who lives here thinks we should drill, drill, drill.
I and many others love Alaska because it is wild and holds areas unblemished by human activity.
We do not need to drill for more oil. We need to find alternate ways to live the life we live or learn to live with less.
The weather/climate here in Fairbanks has changed radically in the years I've lived here. I worry about the cultural and ecological impacts it has had and will continue to have if we humans don't do something soon to turn this around.
There is an active, viable environmental movement here. Many people dearly love this land because it is so incredible and want it preserved for generations to come. There are many progressive, left-leaning, liberal folks who love living here. Alaska is very unique in all its glory and wonder. Many of us voted for you, President Obama.
We need you to help us preserve this place. To keep it wild and wooly and wonderful.
— Jennine Williamson
What Obama should know about the Great Land
Climate change, responsible hydropower, healthy watersheds and fisheries.
Alaskans are committed to developing renewable energy to assist America's critical efforts in reducing and ending reliance on fossil fuels and to mitigate the damaging effects of climate change.
Improved federal energy policy could help ensure Alaska does not replicate conditions in the Pacific Northwest resulting from poorly conceived hydropower development, where, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, historic populations of Pacific salmon species were reduced by 80 percent, where 40 percent of all anadromous fish stocks were extirpated, and where significant expenditures of public funds have been necessary to remove hydropower infrastructure to restore freshwater ecosystems and populations of threatened or endangered fish.
Constructive changes to federal energy policy concerning hydropower licensing and development are needed to help ensure Alaska's commercial fishing and closely related maritime industries remain vitally robust, particularly as oil industry output and employment declines. The future of Alaska depends, in large measure, on healthy watersheds and fisheries.
— Mike Cooney
forestry and fisheries technician
Reaching across political lines
I am dismayed by the comments in the Aug. 27 ADN from our congressional delegation about Obama's upcoming visit. They seem bent on arguing with the intent of Obama's visit to the point of almost denying the overwhelming effects of climate change. Obama is exactly correct — Alaska is at the forefront of the effects of climate change.
All three members of the delegation seem to be essentially stating the same point — that Alaskans rely, and have always relied, on their lands and resources. That is exactly the point — climate change has the potential to completely destroy our lands, our wildlife, and our way of life, and it is far bigger and longer-lasting than political parties and lines.
Our congressional delegation and all Alaskans should view this visit as an honor and as an opportunity to showcase Alaska to the rest of the U.S. and the world. It is an opportunity to reach across political lines and take a leading role in combating the very real and very scary effects of climate change.
— Jennifer Cram
Alaska is on the world's stage
I am, frankly, astonished at the sheer vitriol and rudeness spewing from the mouths of some local "talk radio" hosts and hostesses commenting on the president's coming visit to Alaska. I'm shocked too by the even more extreme ravings in the ADN comment section.
Much of this seems to focus on the assumption that the president has an "agenda." Well, yes he does, and it has to do with the global impact of climate change. Wouldn't it be truly worrisome if our elected leaders ignored the obvious, at our peril? Are there other serious issues facing Alaska, the U.S. and the world? Certainly. But this is the sharp focus at this moment for this visit.
For several days Alaska will get more international attention than money could buy. Let's remember our tourism is also a vital industry here.
I, for one, wish Mr. Obama a safe, productive visit and pray that we are blessed with beautiful September weather to show our home in the best light to all the visitors coming for this conference and to those watching around the world.
— Ken Flynn
Many Alaskans welcome Obama
President Obama should know that some Alaska residents came here to make it our home, not to exploit the resources then take the money and run. Also, many of us who consider this great land our home voted for him both in 2008 and 2012 and continue to appreciate what he is doing.
— Bernadine Raiskums, Ph.D.
What are your goals in Alaska?
What is your outcome goal for this trip to Alaska, other than to view how climate change is affecting the land?
— Chelsea Helton
President is right to make example of Alaska
Yes, the president should use Alaska as an example of the effects of climate change. Let's see, we have had NO winter in two years, the fish are dying and small, glaciers are melting at a rapid rate and the sea is rising. Did I miss something? No, he has never sat and talked to the average Alaskan. What is an average Alaskan in the 21st century? I would say a lot different then when I grew up here.
Here are a few reasons why we should not drill in ANWR: Oil is $40 a barrel. Next, we have a whole television program that centers on the fact that we limit humans living in the refuge. And we want to drill there huh? Finally, why do you live here? Besides this being my lifelong home, it is a gift from God. Why are the people who live here so hellbent on cutting every tree we can, digging as big as holes in the ground as we can and drilling
everywhere. Remember, Alaska was OK before oil. If we are willing to destroy a preserved wilderness just for another buck, just so the Legislature can give it away at a loss or so they can p_ _ _ it away for the next big stupid project, then we do not deserve this paradise.
We need to evolve and move away from the "Oh god please just give us one more big gold rush" mentality. How about we develop a sustainable economy that is not solely dependant on boom or bust natural resources? If our whole future depends on one little patch of ground then we have failed miserably. The first Alaskans used to eke out a living from the earth. Now we can't make it without multibillion-dollar projects?
— Shawn O'Donnell
Obama did right by Alaskans
Dear President Obama, welcome to the great state of Alaska!
Alaska is home to a large number of acres of tundra and mountain ranges and a relatively small number of people. As global populations continue to rise (as they are predicted to do) so does the importance of maintaining wild places for the future.
And there is no place quite as wild as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is home to wolves and wolverine, marmots and musk oxen. The refuge's coastal plain is the important calving ground of the massive Porcupine caribou herd that has sustained indigenous peoples for thousands of years.
There are some in Alaska who would like you to believe that all Alaskans support oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — and this is simply not the case. There are many of us who asked for increased protection for this incredible place and were ecstatic when your administration recommended a wilderness designation. Refuges are not appropriate places to drill for oil.
To prevent irreversible climate change, oil in the Arctic needs to remain in the ground and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a perfect place to draw the line.
— Philip Straub
Change comes from the people, not from the government
I'm seeing many negative views of President Obama in the thread to your article "Asking Alaskans," and I don't agree with many of them. I also don't agree with everything he's done, but I'm definitely not part of the far right. Plus, it's not just the president, we have an entire Congress and Senate with whom to be unhappy. Not trying to be funny, but leadership is sorely lacking.
My one focus and agenda, and it will be the way I vote in this presidential election, is about conservation, battling climate change. Personally, I believe we've passed the tipping point, but I'm not ready to give up. We need to have better and real conservation in Alaska (the canary in the coal mine), to save ourselves (the world will survive, humans will not).
There are those who claim they need the freedom to do whatever they want to pursue happiness, but they forget the part about the Constitution that also guarantees protection against those that would abuse them. My father made me memorize the Constitution, and understand it.
As to the comment that most Alaskans are conservative — this individual does seem to not know any Native Alaskans. Many I've spoken to are neither on the right nor left, but cleave more to the left due to the growing inequities in economic and social statuses that have arisen, and the perceived corruption on the right. I think there is corruption on both sides, and also think neither side understands economics or climate change — no side pursues an objective response. It is all political, nothing substantive. In fact, I believe any change will come from the people, not the government. I don't mean a revolution, I mean the government will be forced to change by circumstances, but I don't now if it will do so in time.
I've lived in Alaska, my chosen home on and off, but also in the Lower 48 and overseas at many posts in the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe. Alaska was a choice, and I feel it is a responsibility to tread lightly on our last remaining wilderness, and to reverse some of the destruction through the world. I've seen the damage of uncontrolled oil industry in Central Asia — humans are not smart enough to deal with oil disasters.
All other arguments are moot if we don't have an Earth to live on.
— Elena Prisekin
All presidents deserve respect
I did not vote for President Obama; I am a long-term Alaskan and am quite proud and excited that he is visiting our great state.
I hope that those who disagree with his policies will be thoughtful enough to listen to what he has to say and respectful enough to support his decision to visit our state.
Rep. Don Young seems to have written him off already with his statements today that the president should not even bother to come here if he remains at odds with Young's positions. Probably no room for dialogue there. But the president must still come to our state and listen to what we have to say.
My grade-school teachers and my parents taught me the importance of listening to and respecting another person's point of view.
My time as a draftee in the U.S. Army taught me to respect those in positions of lawful authority (most especially the commander in chief of this great nation) because of the position, not the individual.
Come on, fellow Alaskans, let's act like adults and make the president feel welcome in the Last Frontier. Disagree all you want with specific policies and vote for whomever you want in 2016, but let's act like adults.
— Thomas Petersen
Go home, Obama
Obama needs to go home and study up on immigration law. Otherwise he should be arrested for treason, for encouraging Muslim extremist terrorist attacks inside the U.S. by giving them many opportunities to come right in. For covering up Benghazi so no one would know the U.S. is supplying guns to ISIS.
— Dahl Richards
The views expressed here are the writers' own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a letter for consideration, email email@example.com, or click here to submit via any web browser. Submitting a letter to the editor constitutes granting permission for it to be edited for clarity, accuracy and brevity. Send longer works of opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org.