Gov. Mike Dunleavy spent a large portion of his State of the State Address highlighting the achievements of outstanding individual Alaskans — many of them from rural parts of the state. He named names, and told stories of heroism and Alaskans going out on a limb to create a better and safer Alaska.
He lifted up Heidi Lieb-Williams, who chairs of the Governor’s Council for Disabilities and Special Education. He highlighted Daisy Lockwood Katcheak, the city administrator of Stebbins, a village hard hit by a fall typhoon. He introduced Sergeant Carlos “Julian” Navarro, hired by Kawerak Inc. to serve the community of Golovin as a village public safety officer. He asked Katie Botz to stand and be recognized for her work on behalf of victims, and he even introduced a psychiatric nurse from Alaska Psychiatric Institute, Rebecca Morrissey.
On almost every page of his 17-page speech, Dunleavy focused on specific Alaskans and their life purpose. In each story he told, and for each person who stood to be recognized, there was a theme of how one person can make a difference in a state like Alaska.
After listing the other usual subjects of such addresses over recent years — resource development, public safety, and reducing sexual assault — Dunleavy pivoted and talked about drone research, selling carbon credits, and finally, the need for more children to stem the outgoing tide of population. It became evident that children were the driving motivation for everything he had spoken about in the prior 40 minutes at the podium.
“It’s no secret to anyone that I’m a pro-life governor, and my administration is ready to work with all of you over the next four years to achieve my goal to make Alaska the most pro-life state in the entire country,” he said to the 60 legislators in the chambers.
“We need more people in Alaska, not less. We need more people in our jobs. We need more people in our schools. We need more people who create wealth. We need more people solving problems. We need more families.” He was talking about how every baby is human life.
Dunleavy’s team had not released this part of his speech to the media in advance.
“People are not a nebulous, abstract concept. People are what this is all about. Everything we do is for the people. Government is about serving people, and the people are why we’re here: the people of Alaska today and certainly the people of Alaska tomorrow,” he said.
The state needs to be the kind of place that promotes having families, and that is attractive to family life.
Woven throughout, Dunleavy hinted that there were things he wanted to do during his first four years that were hard to get to, under the circumstances and with the hurdles the state faced, such as the pandemic. But he said he was glad the state could hold the budget flat, and he emphasized that now is the time to revolutionize the Alaska economy with big, bold ideas that position the state as a place where families grow, and where children want to return.
Among the ideas for pro-life policies was to expand postpartum medical coverage for women, so they don’t turn to abortion instead. He also indicated he will still fight for a full Permanent Fund dividend.
Toward the end of his remarks, he asked Rep. Josiah Patkotak and his wife Flora, who hail from Utquigvik, to stand. He asked them to lift up their young children, Elijah and Francine, and then he asked the Alaska Legislature to dedicate themselves to working to build the kind of Alaska that would provide those two youngsters and all children of Alaska the future they deserve.
“To the Patkotaks, thank you again, for being here tonight representing the Alaskans of today, and the Alaskans of tomorrow,” Dunleavy said.
And by lifting up the Patkotaks, Dunleavy managed to get the entire Legislature to applaud for Dunleavy’s pro-life message.