Begich says he’s no moper; urges Native youth to persist

Former U.S. senator Mark Begich spoke to the Elders and Youth Conference today, one of his biggest Alaskan audiences since he lost re-election and left office in January.

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Begich urged the young attendees to participate in their communities, to vote and to stay positive. He drew on his own life for illustration.

“A lot of people assume that somehow I was born and then I was in public office. Just magically occurred. That is not the case,” he said. “I have won elections and I have lost elections. The question is: what do you do?”

Begich recounted his early beginnings in civic life, how he started a non-alcoholic teen nightclub to give Anchorage youth like himself something to do, and why he first ran for public office.

“When I ran for Anchorage Assembly at the age of 26 … the reason I decided to run was not because I said to myself, ‘Geez, I want to be an assembly person,'” he said. “I ran because I wanted to do something for the community I lived in, that I felt it had already been good to me, at that young age, and I wanted to give something back.”

If it bore some resemblance to a campaign speech, his spokeswoman, Rachel Barinbaum  says the ex-senator was on the agenda to discuss “Your Voice: Action, Advocacy and the 2015 Elders and Youth Resolutions,” with a request from the hosts to pitch the importance of voting.

One of his key messages is to remain tenacious and not take rejection as the final word.

“When I ran for mayor and lost twice before winning. It wasn’t sitting around moping and saying, ‘Well the sky has fallen. I lost an election. My life is over.’ No. Got right back up,” Begich told the audience. “As I said earlier: Persistence. Positive attitude. Know you can make a difference.”

After leaving the Senate, Begich formed a consulting group and signed on with a D.C. lobbying firm to be a strategic advisor. He has also worked as an advisor for the law firm Sonosky Chambers and on a campaign to kill the Iran nuclear deal.

Begich has been repeatedly asked if he is considering a run against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, or maybe Congressman Don Young. He hasn’t announced any future political plans.

Young and Sen. Dan Sullivan, the man who unseated Begich, are due to address the AFN convention on Thursday, followed by Murkowski on Friday.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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