"When the senior senator from Alaska visited our small town on the Fourth of July weekend, we knew he was under FBI investigation for renovations done on his house near Anchorage by an oilfield services company. We saw pictures of the place on TV. It's not the Taj Mahal. It's not even all that nice by Alaska's challenged architectural standards. It's a ski camp with a daylight basement.
That's part of the reason no one mentioned the trouble. Another is that we were hoping he'd help us pay for a new multimillion-dollar harbor. And yet another, more complicated reason is that in a place where so many of us come from somewhere else, and where friends become family, Sen. Stevens is, for richer or poorer, our Uncle Ted. He was voted Alaskan of the Century at the close of 1999. The Anchorage airport is named after him.
But he did not travel to Haines for our Fourth of July celebration in a flag-fluttering motorcade. There were no dark suits or Ray-Bans either. He wore khakis, a flight jacket and walking shoes and was squired around town in a borrowed minivan by a friend. He arrived early for a veterans appreciation ceremony in a nearby Tlingit Indian village park. He chatted easily with the adult children of old friends, many now gone, with whom he worked to make sure that they and other Alaska Natives got title to their ancestral lands. He patted a stray dog and thanked everyone for inviting him.
In Haines alone, Ted has helped fund our public radio station, new library and Native-run health clinic. He has been the patriarch of the 49th state since it was a twinkle in his eye. The other day he spoke on the radio, reminding Alaskans that he has always been there for us and asking that we help him now. It may be too much to expect, but after all these years, it's not too much to ask."
Get the Story:
Heather Lende: He's Still Our Uncle Ted
(The Washington Post 8/3)
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