Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Sen. Murkowski tells AASG attendees their voices matter and are heard

Sen. Lisa Murkowski assured 350 student leaders over the weekend that she and other national leaders are hearing what young people have to say.

She made the comments while Skyping with teen delegates from more than 40 Alaska communities, all gathered in Healy for the 2018 Alaska Association Student Government spring conference. There was even time for some questions and answers. The statewide student organization meets twice every year around the state.

“You are the ones who make things happen in our state,” she told the group. Her image filled large screens on either side of the conference stage. “It is your ideas, your inspiration that I am looking to, as I seek to tackle some of the really challenging issues we are facing back in Washington, D.C.”

Every summer, Sen. Murkowski hosts student interns who work at her Washington, D.C., office. Last year, she asked those interns for guidance on how to start a conversation about issues important to the country and to young people.

“It was a fabulous discussion that morphed into actual recommendations in writing, reports that they had done,” she said. “One thing they said that really struck me: ‘The thing you have to do first is just stop calling people names.’ Pretty simple advice, ya know?”

Sen. Murkowski said she really appreciated this perspective from a young person: “How can you have constructive dialogue if you are calling people names from the get go?”

Sen. Murkowski said perspective from young people often has helped her to shape policy.

“We’re seeing this play out around the country right now when it comes to the subject of guns, safety in our schools and violence in general,” she said. “It is young people around the country that are pushing, that are urging, putting an imperative to the lawmakers, to people like myself, saying something’s gotta give if I don’t feel safe in my school.”

No one person has all the answers, she said. But maybe together adults and young people can find the answer.

It is tradition at the AASG conference that hundreds of teen delegates do not interrupt with loud applause. Instead, they snap their fingers when they want to applaud a speaker’s statement. There was lots of snapping going on during Sen. Murkowski’s address.

The senator encouraged the student leaders to continue their community engagement after graduating high school.

“Take your role seriously,” she said. “I am counting on you to help me lead Alaska. What you’re doing, the networking, the sharing you are engaging in, the learning from one another, is critically important. I do want to encourage you to take your passions with you when you leave high school.

“Take this passion and really try to build on it. You are not in that room by accident. You are there because you are leaders.”

During a question and answer session, one delegate asked what could be done to keep women involved in politics.

“The reality is, one of the bigger drawbacks for women at higher levels has been traditionally, raising money,” the senator said. “I can use myself as an example. I’m good at raising money for others; it’s hard to raise money for myself.”

Often, women don’t believe they have the credentials for higher office, she said. They take time to build their resumes.

“If you are waiting for the perfect time to run for higher office, it will never come,” she said. “There will always be families to care for, careers to pursue, there’s never going to be a perfect time. You just have to do it.”

There are currently 23 women serving in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Murkowski said. That is an all-time record high. In the entire history of the U.S. Senate, which is 250-plus years, only 51 women have ever served.

“Think about that,” said Murkowski. “Half of the women who have ever served are serving now.

“We need more women.”

By:  Kris Capps
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner