Sen. Lisa Murkowski shared a message of life-long learning and legislative support with students at Gastineau Elementary School on Thursday.
Murkowski visited with two classrooms and a school-wide assembly Thursday afternoon, at the end of which she shared two special gifts: a book for the library — Alaska author Shelley Gill’s “Swimmer” and a mostly new American flag, which was flown over the U.S. Capitol and came with a special certificate.
Her first stop was Rene Walker’s first-grade class and they asked questions of her.
Murkowski was asked if she got to see her family a lot. She said not very much.
“Where am I today?” she asked. “In a classroom with you. Where are my boys? In a classroom.”
Murkowski also explained that her husband lives in Washington, D.C., and she’s visiting Alaska.
“It is important to get as much time with family as you can,” she added.
Murkowski was asked about senator pay, and she said what she does isn’t about making money, but about working for Alaskans.
“I’m not in school anymore, did you know I learn something new every single day?” she asked. “It doesn’t matter if you are seven or 77, you should be learning something new every day.”
Murkowski also visited Ben Kriegmont’s fourth-grade class. Kriegmont’s class welcomed Murkowski with a picture from an event during her most recent campaign — where she was reelected to the Senate following a write-in campaign — which Kriegmont himself was in. He asked her to sign the picture for the class.
“Most people don’t get elected by a write-in campaign,” Murkowski said. “They said ‘we can’t do it.’ We said ‘we didn’t’ care, we were going to do it anyway.’”
She was impressed that the class had taken the time to research a little history about her before she came, so the class explained what they’d learned — that she is the 33rd female to ever serve in the U.S. Senate. Murkowski said she was born in Ketchikan and had gone to Glacier Valley Elementary School in Juneau in fifth grade and later Marie Drake Junior High School.
Students in Kriegmont’s class also had connections to the senator, one girl’s grandfather works on energy policy with Murkowski, while another was an infant when the student’s mother worked in Murkowski’s office. Murkowski’s memory proved sharp as she was asked if she knew the adults, she could name the student.
Murkowski talked a bit about education and the kind of work she does, working with representatives of all the other states to make laws. She pointed to a large map of the United States at one end of the room.
“That map should not be allowed in schools,” Murkowski said.
The map featured a normal view of the Lower 48 states, but Alaska was cut-out from its attachment to Canada and placed below California. The other problem with it is the pullout of Alaska shows the state as a bit smaller than Texas. Murkowski said this creates challenges in developing policy for those who don’t understand Alaska is cold (energy costs and related issues, etc.) because people think the state is off the southern coast of California. She said the size representation of the state also is problematic. As an example, she said some people don’t understand why it takes eight hours to get from Alaska to Washington, D.C. or other transportation issues that occur in the state.
At the assembly, she asked if the students knew why she was there.
“To tell us how great we all are,” one boy said.
Murkowski agreed, but added she was there to listen to them — and everyone around the state to work for what Alaskans want.
• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.