SECRETARY TILLERSON: (Applause.) Thank you so much, Chief, and it is a pleasure to be here, and good evening to all of you, and I want to welcome myself and I want to welcome you to Fairbanks as well. (Laughter.)
The State Department does greatly appreciate our partnership with the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, and I want to extend a warm thank you to all of those involved in making the event a success. Thank you so much.
It’s a particular honor for me to join you to celebrate 20 years of peace, stability, and cooperation in the Arctic through the Arctic Council. These past two years of the United States chairing the Council I think have been successful thanks in no small part to many people that are here tonight, and I want to recognize a few individuals.
Senator Lisa Murkowski has been a longstanding strong supporter of the council and a great friend to the State Department. She created the Senate Arctic Caucus to bring much-needed focus and attention to the Arctic. She also represents us in the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region, which we deeply appreciate.
Senator Dan Sullivan is also a great friend to the State Department, one of our alumni, having served as the assistant secretary for economic and business affairs during the Bush administration. Senator Sullivan knows and appreciates what we do at the State Department and respects the important role of diplomacy in ensuring stability and peace around the world, and he also is a leader in creating a voice for the State Department and our Foreign Service officers by creating the Senate State Department Foreign Service Officers Caucus, and we thank him for that.
And Congressman Don Young also recognizes the great importance of the Arctic to the United States, and formed the House Arctic Working Group to educate his colleagues in the House of Representatives.
I’m happy these three individuals are here tonight and will be part of our delegation at the Arctic Council Ministerial tomorrow.
I also want to give a special welcome to the entire congressional delegation from the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee that are with us tonight. They are on their way, traveling tomorrow to Greenland to see how our U.S. research dollars are being deployed to further our understanding of the Arctic, and I know they’ll have a fruitful and informative trip.
I particularly, though, want to thank Alaska Governor Bill Walker and Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott for their leadership and the state’s warm hospitality in hosting our two-year Arctic Council chairmanship.
And finally, I want to thank the Alaska Arctic Council Host Committee for their incredible support of our numerous chairmanship events held here in Alaska over the past two years. Our chairmanship would not have been nearly as fruitful, interesting and worthwhile – particularly for our foreign participants – had the Host Committee not been there. And I know their guidance was also invaluable and was greatly appreciated by the state of Maine when Maine hosted a couple of the Arctic Council events as well, and I know they’re thankful for your help.
We’ve got a lot of business to do tomorrow, but I hope everyone has the opportunity to have a little fun this evening, make some acquaintances, enjoy the fellowship of the evening, and thank you all again for being here and thank you to those of you who have taken such a great interest in the Arctic Council. Thank you. (Applause.)