My Turn: On the agenda: Opening ANWR, security, funding for transportation

Posted: Sunday, February 02, 2003

As I finish my fourth week as Alaska's junior senator, I have much to tell you. First, my deepest thanks to the many Alaskans who have sent cards and messages welcoming me to my Washington post. My years working in the Alaska Legislature, serving everyone - especially those in Anchorage and Eagle River - certainly prepared me for how wonderfully kind Alaskans are. Still it's surprising and even embarrassing to read the warm words and messages of encouragement to me and my family.

Serving in the U.S. Senate is an awesome responsibility. It is truly humbling to be thought worthy of this great honor. But I know that Alaskans expect me to serve them with all the energy, enthusiasm and openness that I showed during my years in the Legislature - to prove that I truly am worthy of representing everyone in Washington. Alaskans want action on a host of fronts and I pledge to work tirelessly to oblige.

With gasoline prices again rising and the threat of a Mideast conflict looming, I will work to explain why Alaska should be allowed to help meet this nation's energy needs by providing oil from a tiny sliver of the Arctic coastal plain. I intend to explain how this can be done without harming any of the environment or threatening the wildlife that Alaskans love so dearly.

With much of the East Coast shivering under winter's cold, I intend to explain why Alaska should be allowed to build a pipeline to bring Alaska's huge resources of natural gas to energy-starved consumers. Americans are looking at their energy bills in disbelief. They want to know how Alaska can help solve our long-term energy woes.

And as the nation confronts a new world of terrorists and unpredictable foreign despots, from the Middle East to North Korea, I intend to work to implement our new Department of Homeland Security. Americans need to be secure both inside and outside our borders.

Along the way I hope to accomplish much more. I hope to improve funding for transportation, so Alaskans and our resources and goods can finally get from here to there. I intend to support the president in his efforts to reinvigorate job growth and stimulate our economy, so all Americans can have the good-paying jobs we need. I hope to improve federal support for education so our children have access to the quality training they must have to compete. And I intend to tackle our health care woes, so everyone, especially our senior citizens, can afford the medicines they need.

But mostly I intend to serve as your surrogate in Washington, helping cut the federal bureaucracy and helping you gain the freedom we all seek to raise our families and enjoy our lives. So far I've been blessed in winning key committee assignments that should help me improve energy policy, meet our infrastructure needs, aid our veterans and assist Native and rural residents.

I'm also pleased to be in the majority with friends in the White House, Senate, House and all the federal agencies. Not since before statehood have the stars been in similar favorable alignment.

In the weeks ahead my task is to become a full partner in Alaska's talented congressional team, joining Ted Stevens and Don Young in translating these goals into reality. Along the way I hope to hear from you clearly and often on how I'm doing and what I should be doing better to help all Alaskans achieve our dreams.

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