Remarks at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, En Route to Japan and the Republic of Korea

November 8, 1983

Governor, Senator Murkowski, Congressman Young, General, distinguished guests here, and all of you ladies and gentlemen:

It's been a while since Nancy and I were in Alaska. Now, that line would make it sound as if we're not tenderfeet still. We've been here once. We came in the dark, and we left in the dark. [Laughter] And we still are looking forward to a time when we can be here with more time, certainly, than we have today, when we can see some of the beauty of this wonderful land.

You know, I know that you are kind to a tenderfoot up here. I remember the story of one who arrived, and an old fellow up here was showing him the routine with the sledge dogs. And he said, ``Look, you can walk among them. You can pat them on the head. You can feed them. Don't fall down.'' [Laughter] And you know, that's good advice in Washington. [Laughter] I was going to even almost try to fool you. I could prove that I know a little about Alaska. I was going to recite ``The Shooting of Dan McGrew.'' But I won't.

But I want you to know I've always had an admiration for the spirit of this State. And I won't deny that I have a special kinship with your delegation. And, Governor, you'll forgive me, but I don't know of any other States where the entire congressional delegation is Republican.

But Alaska does represent something very special to most Americans. You are the conquerors of the last frontier. Many of your values and ways are reminiscent of those that built our great country. Your love of nature and the land, your individualistic pride, your spirit of enterprise, all these things have contributed to a well-deserved Alaskan mystique. My only request to you is keep doing what you do best.

One thing your State is known for is its outside activities, of course, especially hunting and fishing. And that reminds me of a story. [Laughter] It's a story about down there in the other 48, a young fellow that was making quite a killing fishing and selling the fish to the local restaurant in this small town. And the game warden began to get a little suspicious about the catch that he was bringing in every day. So, knowing the sheriff was an uncle of this young fellow, he asked him why he didn't go fishing with his nephew and find out where he was catching and how he was catching all those fish. So, the sheriff asked, and the nephew said, ``Sure.''

Elmer and the sheriff rode out into the middle of the lake, and the sheriff started to get ready to put his line in. And Elmer reached in the tackle box, came out with a stick of dynamite, lit the fuse, threw it in, the explosion, and the fish came belly-up. And he started to gather them in, and the sheriff says, ``Elmer, you have just committed a felony.'' Elmer reached in the tackle box, came up with another stick of dynamite, lit the fuse, handed it to the sheriff, and said, ``Did you come here to fish or talk?'' [Laughter]

Well, you may not catch them with dynamite, but your State is responsible for two-fifths, 40 percent of America's fish harvest. Your State is a treasure trove of resources vital to our economy and to the well-being of every American. One-eighth of our gold comes from Alaska. And just how vulnerable would we be had we followed the advice of those who opposed the Alaskan oil pipeline?

Today we should all say, ``Thank you, Alaska,'' because Alaskan oil accounts for one-fifth of our total domestic production. And all of this concerns more than economic growth, as important as that is. Alaska possesses 10 of the 16 vital materials needed for our nation's security. In short, you add tremendously to our economic well-being and to our security. And you do it with only 443,000 people, and that's pretty impressive.

In the future Alaska will play an even greater role. Here in Anchorage we're as close to Tokyo, Japan's capital, as we are to our own capital in Washington. Your State bridges the Western Hemisphere and the Far East. Like California, you're part of an economic community on the Pacific rim which will be ever more important to our way of life in the years ahead.

My visit to Japan and Korea will, I hope, underline the significance that we place on our ties with Northeast Asia and the countries of the Pacific. In the 21st century we can foresee vastly expanding economic, political, and cultural bonds with these countries. I believe we'll witness a wave of productive and creative endeavors improving the quality of life on both sides of the Pacific.

The peoples of the Pacific understand hard work. They're not afraid of technology and innovation. They have the Yankee spirit that we once called our own. We're in the midst of restoring that spirit. Here in Alaska you never lost it. Alaska, with its vast resources, strategic location, and enterprising people, will play an increasingly important role as the potential of the Pacific unfolds.

Our progress depends on a strong United States. We've come a long way in strengthening our economy in the last few years. We've brought inflation down dramatically, and we've put our economy back on the road to robust growth after years of stagnation. And as I've said, you Alaskans contributed far beyond your numbers in these endeavors.

Peace is essential if we're to realize our economic potential. And to maintain peace we must maintain a strong defense. Alaska has much of which to be proud on this account -- [applause] -- you have much to be proud of in this account as well. You are a first line of defense. This is becoming ever-more apparent in the wake of the Soviets' brutal downing of a civilian airliner.

May I take this opportunity to thank all of our service personnel who are stationed here. Now, many of you are far from home; sometimes you're lonely. Sometimes, until you get used to it, I suppose the elements are tough. But each one of you contributes to our security in a very real way. I just want you all to know your families and friends appreciate you, and so do 230 million other Americans.

I'd also like to thank your congressional delegation, Senators Stevens and Murkowski and Congressman Young, for their unswerving support for a strong national defense. Your representatives to Washington are showing that Alaskans are willing to do what is necessary to protect our freedom and preserve the peace.

Now, Ted Stevens was unable to join us today because he's continuing his outstanding work in managing the Department of Defense's appropriation bill on the floor of the Senate. And just before we landed, I was told that it was worthwhile his staying there, because George Bush, as Vice President, cast the tie-breaking vote to pass the military appropriations bill.

You know, but I'm grateful that Senator Murkowski and Congressman Young could be here. And leaving Ted there, you know, that's a little bit like that story of the Texas Ranger, that they sent him to a town where there was a riot, and the mayor met him, and the mayor looked over his shoulder and said, ``Well, where are the rest?'' And he says, ``Well, you've only got one riot.'' [Laughter] Well, it only took one Alaskan there on the floor of the Senate to get the job done today.

Back in June, I signed into law a bill that was declaring what you were just told a few minutes ago, that January 3d would be Alaskan Statehood Day, marks that great milestone, your 25th anniversary as a member of the United States. And I'm certain that Alaska's next 25 years will be enriching and rewarding years for you, the residents of this mighty State and for the rest of your fellow citizens down below.

Alaska only cost us $7 million. You know, that was quite a real estate deal. I don't think anyone would try to buy it for even a couple of million dollars profit on that today.

Well, I thank you for having us with you in this brief stopover that we have here before we continue on our way. And certainly we thank you very much for coming out here to see us. Mainly thank you for being Americans and for making us so proud. And God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:54 a.m. to military personnel and their families in Hangar 2 on the Air Force base. Following his remarks, the President traveled to Tokyo, Japan.

In his opening remarks, the President referred to Governor William Sheffield of Alaska and Brig. Gen. Gerald Bethke, Commander, United States Armed Forces, Alaska.