Sen. Murkowski eNewsletter 11/24/2008

U.S. Senate bids farewell to Ted Stevens

I joined Sen. Stevens on the Senate floor last week as he delivered the final speech of his Senate career which was answered by a standing ovation from his fellow Senators. Following Sen. Stevens’s remarks, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sens. Dan Inouye and Joe Lieberman, told stories about traveling and working with Ted over the decades, paying tribute to his storied career and many contributions to Alaska. I was honored to speak as well. "Whenever I think of the good things that have come to Alaska over the past 50 years, I see the face and the hands of Ted Stevens in so many of them."

You can preview his speech here.

Sen. Murkowski opposes an auto industry bailout

Congress was back last week in a “lame duck” session to consider a bailout for the auto industry.  I do not support the proposals that have been offered so far. Nobody wants the Big Three automakers to fail, or for thousands of hard-working Americans to be laid off, but throwing more money at the situation doesn’t make these companies more sustainable; it just delays the inevitable. In my view there needs to be a retooling of the industry that will make it more competitive and successful in the long run.

If we provide a bailout to the Big Three automakers,  where do we draw the line on other industries that are also hurting?  Before any taxpayer funds are even considered, the industry needs to put forward a responsible business model that provides for a long-term fix. Federal intervention should be a last – not a first – resort.

Sen. Murkowski holds Senate field hearing in Anchorage on high school dropout rates

Earlier this month, I convened a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in Anchorage to find solutions to the nation’s high school dropout rate crisis. This is a major problem in Alaska, where the high school dropout rate was 8 percent for the 2005-06 school year (latest data available), compared to a national average of 3.9 percent. I called together national and Alaskan experts to testify about the problems that cause Alaska’s low rate of high school and postsecondary graduation and to suggest solutions. 

Sen. Murkowski and Anchorage School Board

Vice President Macon Roberts.

My goal in holding this hearing was to learn how the federal government can assist state and local efforts to raise the graduation rate in Alaska and nationwide.  We made an excellent start, and I was pleased that diverse organizations such as the University of Alaska, the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, the Alaska Native Education Association, Communities in Schools, Best Beginnings, and many others have committed to work together to achieve higher graduation rates for students across the state.

The solutions must include increased early childhood education, increased opportunity to learn trades and work-related skills in high school, more effective interventions for 3rd graders who are not reading on grade level, and ways of teaching that are sensitive to the cultural and language differences among different groups of Americans.  Young people must be given the tools they need to attain career training certificates, complete an apprenticeship program, or earn an associate or bachelor’s degree. I will work collaboratively with state and local agencies to achieve these goals. 

Senator Murkowski thanks Shirley Holloway, President/CEO, Avant-Garde Learning Foundation, for her participation in the hearing.

Sen. Murkowski visits with Alaskan robotics students

Senator Murkowski tries her skills at the helm of one of the robotic vehicles.

After the HELP hearing I visited with students involved with the Alaska Robotics Education Association.  The organization works to develop an interest in science and engineering through robotics competition.  The students will participate in the State robotics competition on January 17 in Anchorage.  They were eager to show me their projects, and one group of students even let me operate their robot.  To learn more about this exciting organization visit http://www.akrobotics.org/

Happy 100th birthday, Dr. Soboleff!

From left, Rosita Worl, Sealaska Heritage Foundation; Jaeleen Kookseh-Araujo, Sealaska Corporation General Counsel; Honorable Albert Kookesh, State Senator and Chair of Sealaska Corporation; Sen. Murkowski; Dr. Walter Soboleff.

The Reverend Dr. Walter Soboleff, a Presbyterian minister and revered Tlingit Elder, celebrated his 100th birthday on November 14th.  I had an opportunity to spend a few moments with Dr. Soboleff at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention and presented him with a framed copy of the remarks I placed in his honor in the Congressional Record.  He has enriched all Alaskans through his many good works including service as President of the Alaska Native Brotherhood for seven terms, Chaplain of the Alaska National Guard, a founding member of the Alaska Native Studies Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Chairman of the Alaska State Board of Education. I paid tribute to Dr. Soboleff in my address to the 2008 Alaska Federation of Natives Convention on October 24th. “Walter’s eyes have experienced so much of Alaska’s history: The end of segregation in Southeast Alaska, the suit against the United States Government for taking Native lands to create the Tongass National Forest and the Glacier Bay National Monument and the revival of the Tlingit language“. Walter is truly a Great Alaskan and an inspiration to us all.

Sen. Murkowski meets with the UAF award-winning rifle team

Sen. Murkowski and the UAF rifle team.

President Bush and the rifle team.

I met with the University of Alaska Fairbanks rifle team earlier this month to congratulate them on their third consecutive National Championship.  Earlier in the day they met with President Bush at the White House. When the team captain told President Bush that they beat the Army team to win their national championship, he laughed and said, “the folks at West Point need to practice.”