AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
No doubt President Obama is a very busy man with a very busy schedule. And so for him to take some of his precious time and make a trip to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in North Dakota this Friday is very big news. After all, this will be the first time that a sitting United States President has visited an Indian reservation in North Dakota, and only the 14th time in the state’s history that a sitting president has been here.
While the President and First Lady’s trip to Cannonball is intended to allow Native Americans in the state to show their culture and history, it is also intended to show some of the challenges many Native American families face, such as high rates of poverty, suicide, and abuse, and the lack of housing. And without a doubt, Native Americans living on reservations are experiencing serious issues, which is important for the President of the United States to see firsthand.
But since President Obama is coming to North Dakota on Friday, June 13, he really needs to make time for a tour of western North Dakota’s oil patch. And, if I’m not too bold, he should make a brief stop in Watford City, which is at the epicenter of the Bakken oil development in North Dakota.
North Dakota has become the nation’s poster child for a booming economy, low employment and a state that has a surplus of funds. The President needs to see what North Dakota is doing right in the way of energy development and the way that it is working with the oil and gas industry to help drive this country to energy independence.
But it would also be worthwhile for the President and the First Lady to see how very difficult it is in this apparent “land of milk and honey” for senior citizens and the middle class workers to find affordable housing when our housing prices are among the highest in the nation. And how challenging it is for a community of Watford City’s size to try to handle a 10- to 15-fold growth in population and be able to build the needed streets, water and sewer lines without taxing the existing home and business owners out of existence.
Or he could visit the local hospital and visit with our emergency staff that is seeing more ER visits on a monthly basis than are the major hospitals in the state. Maybe he could visit with our school administrators on the overcrowded conditions that we are experiencing as they try to find ways to build new schools to handle record enrollments. And while he is in our schools, he could talk about how our educators are going to adequately educate an ever-increasing student population for whom English is not their primary language.
Perhaps he could drive up and down U.S. Highway 85 and see why North Dakota needs more federal dollars to improve the busiest travel corridor in the state and why we need to build more pipelines to get this much needed resource to the rest of the United States.
Yes, the President has sent some of his top appointed people to North Dakota to talk about energy and postal issues, as well as a host of other critical issues that the federal government has a role in. But as the President cannot deny, seeing is believing.
President Obama is to be applauded for coming to North Dakota and learning about the plight of the Native Americans.
But he also owes it to himself and to the people of western North Dakota to take time to see the part of the nation that is turning heads across the country when it comes to job creation and helping to make the United States self-reliant when it comes to energy.
President Obama, the welcome mat is out for you in Watford City.