WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) spoke on the Senate floor this week in recognition of Carol Seppilu, of Nome, who, as a result of a suicide attempt when she was 16 years old, is an advocate for suicide prevention. Carol is an amazing athlete, determined to run ultramarathons in all 50 states. She was honored as part of Senator Sullivan’s series, “Alaskan of the Week.”

Alaskan of the Week

Senator Sullivan Honoring Carol Seppilu as Alaskan of the Week (Click image or here to watch).


Madam President, as many of my colleagues know, one of my favorite parts of the week is coming down to the Senate floor to recognize somebody special in my State, somebody we refer to as our ``Alaskan of the Week.'' It is one of the most fulfilling things I do all week, to get to talk about people who make my State very, very special.

I know many of you--people in the Gallery--have seen Alaska on TV or have read about it in the newspapers, but there is no substitute for being there. We want you all to come. It would be the trip of a lifetime, particularly now.

What is going on in Alaska right now, one of the highlights of the entire year, is the Iditarod--the ``last great race'' in the world--which is in full throttle. When you visit, Alaska will change your life--the wilderness, the wildlife, the quiet, the sense of unbridled freedom, the liberty, and the majesty. It is all there. It is all there, so come on, come on and visit.

Also, when you visit, you will realize that Alaska is home to some of the most courageous, hard-working, and tenacious people in the world, many of whom have overcome tremendous odds and are determined to inspire others to live a full and healthy life.

Madam President, I would like to take you, take everybody listening, to Nome, Alaska, and tell you about Carol Seppilu, someone who I believe personifies determination and perseverance and who is an inspiration to us all and is this week's Alaskan of the Week.

Carol lives in Nome--a rugged, unique, and beautiful town in Alaska's northwest, about 500 miles from Anchorage. You might have heard of Nome. The reality show ``Gold Rush: Alaska'' was filmed there, and it is also the finish for the Iditarod.

Pretty soon, if you are watching on TV--our best guess is early next week--the mushers and the dozens of dogs--that, by the way, love the race. They love the race--will begin to cross the finish line. People from all over our State, but really people from all over the world, will be there to greet them as they finish this incredible race, to greet them and congratulate them. We call it the ``last great race,'' and it finishes at Nome.

There is no place like Nome, we like to say in Alaska. If you live in Nome, you might have seen Carol running in winter, spring, summer, and fall. Carol runs through the streets and into the mountains surrounding Nome. It is one of the ways that she has found purpose in her life, which in turn she has used to help others, to inspire others.

Like a lot of us, Carol had big dreams when she was growing up. She was interested in science and space. She was actually interested in being an astrophysicist. Then, as sometimes happens to young kids, her life took a bit of a turn. She got in with the wrong crowd and started drinking and using drugs, and her life lost meaning.

This is a difficult subject to talk about on the Senate floor, but we must. We must. Carol wants us to. Alaska has the second highest suicide rate in the country, and it has the highest teen suicide rate in the entire Nation. The suicide rate among Alaska Native teens is also very, very high--tragically high, horribly high. When it comes to suicide, silence is deadly.Carol knows all about this. When she was 16, she tried to end her life by shooting herself. After the gun went off, she remembers thinking: Dear God, save me. I don't want to die anymore.

Then she described how, during this awful incident, her ancestors came to her, her elders, telling her that she was going to be OK and that she had a reason to live. She did live. Badly scarred, after having multiple operations on her face, recovery has not been easy for Carol, but she has made it through. She has toughed it out.

What she did was remarkable and incredible. She began to speak about suicide at schools. She was a member of the State's Suicide Prevention Council. Eventually, she got a job at an elders' home, where she is currently the cultural activities specialist. She organizes Alaska Native dances. She cooks traditional Alaska Native food for her elders. Moose and muskox soup is their favorite. I think Senator Murkowski is going to let us enjoy a little muskox stew over lunch today, so Carol will be pleased about that.

But as the years went by, she again experienced depression, which is not uncommon. She didn't feel like getting out of bed. She was unhealthy. But then again, in 2014, more inspiration--again, incredible. A high school friend who was a runner urged Carol to try it. You are not feeling healthy? You are feeling sad? Go out, try to get a run in. At first, when she did it, she could only go a few blocks. Eventually the blocks turned into miles, which is even more challenging for her because of some of her injuries. Nonetheless, she persevered.

We are seeing a theme in her life. She began to get healthy and to feel good about herself again. Again, she found her reason to live. Guess what. She has turned into an amazing athlete. She began to enter races in 2015 when she ran the local 8-mile Dexter Challenge. ``I thought, if I do eight miles, I could do a half marathon,'' she said. And then she did.

Carol didn't stop there. Now she is running ultramarathons across the country--50 miles in Iowa, multiple ultramarathons in Utah, a 50K in Washington State. Early this year, she was running a 50K in Texas when, about 5 miles in, she broke her ankle, but that didn't stop her. She finished even with a broken ankle and is recovering. We are seeing a woman, a young lady of perseverance. Her ultimate goal is to do an ultramarathon in every State in America.

Because of Carol's scars, she wears a mask. In August she decided that it was too cumbersome to wear the mask while running, so during a race in Alaska--the very challenging 50-mile Resurrection Pass ultramarathon--she took it off, and it was liberating for her. Here is the beautiful thing: Everybody--everybody--was so supportive, so she doesn't run with a mask anymore.

It is not only runners who are supportive of Carol; she has gotten people in her hometown, the town of Nome, to start running themselves. Across the State, people approach her wherever she goes, and they tell her they have heard about her, they have heard about her life, and if she has made it through her challenge, they can too. In other words, she is an inspiration. She has become an inspiration throughout Alaska to so many people. She said:

“I think I'm helping other people overcome difficulties. They tell me I'm inspiring them to keep going. So that's why I believe I'm here now--to help others.”

That is Carol's quote.

So, Carol, for your inspiration to so many in our great State, for all you have done and all you continue to do, we are proud of you and thank you for being our Alaskan of the Week this week, as the Iditarod finishes up in your hometown of Nome, Alaska.

Madam President, I yield the floor.