First Lady Jill Biden swung through Bethel on what looked a lot like a campaign rally for her president husband.

Introduced by Bethel resident and current U.S. Congresswoman Mary Peltola, the first Lady gave a brief speech to area residents, in which she carved out space to lavish praise on U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (who was also on hand) for helping to protect Alaska’s environment.

Haaland has done President Joe Biden’s bidding in working to lock up Alaska lands to most oil, gas and timber development, stirring the ire of U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and many others who say Biden’s hostile stance to resource development hurts Alaska economy and overall job market.

Jill Biden’s speech went on to praise area villagers for their “bonds of family and friendship, of tribes and traditions.” She also recalled her last trip to Alaska – a 2021 stop in Anchorage on her way to the Tokyo Olympics – when she dropped by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to urge Alaskans to get experimental Covid jabs.

“I saw how acutely you are connected to the natural world around you — from the migration of salmon to the cycles of the sun,” she said in recalling her previous visit to Alaska.  “And yet, I also learned about the challenges you face — and how communities in rural areas like this one often feel unseen and unappreciated for their unique contributions to our country.”

The First Lady said she “took those stories home with me. I told them to my husband, Joe. And he listened.”

Mrs. Biden then boasted of how her husband worked with the then Democratically controlled U.S. House to pour more than $100 million into the Bethel Native Corporation to help establish high speed internet in the Y-K Delta region.

“It’s a part of his Investing in America agenda and how he’s rebuilding our country from the bottom up and the middle out,” she boasted. “This is one of the largest tribal broadband expansions in the country. With high-speed internet, you’ll have better access to critical health care, new educational tools, and remote job opportunities. It will change lives. It will save lives.”

The First Lady claimed that better internet will “help make our world a little brighter, a little more beautiful,” adding that enhanced broadband will unlock the wisdom, knowledge and experience in rural Alaska so that it can be shared around the globe.

Biden said she felt “so much love” in Bethel.

“Love for Bethel and the people who make it home — for the language and heritage that has shaped you — for the generations who stand behind you and live on in your hearts — for the young people who are dreaming a brighter future for us all,” she said.

She concluded by reminding Bethel residents of how much “Joe, Secretary Haaland, and I — along with the rest of the Biden-Harris administration — stand beside you, today, tomorrow, and always.”

The speech steered clear of Bethel’s chronically high rates of violent crime, rape and aggravated assault, or its dire educational outcomes and persistent substance abuse problems.

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Jill Biden says faster internet will help solve rural Alaska’s myriad challenges

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.