Our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with the Hickel family on this sad day.
I am down in Sitka for the Alaska Democratic Convention, and was saddened to hear of Governor Hickel’s passing. I had dinner with him once. We were Alaskans having a party, not partisan Alaskans having a meal. We didn’t agree on everything, but I know Governor Hickel loved this land. Up until his death, he was strongly advocating an all-Alaska gas pipeline with regular columns in the Anchorage Daily News. Governor Hickel believed and strongly protected the Alaska Constitution.
Unlike today’s lost Republican Party, Governor Hickel was outspoken against corporate power. He railed against Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission BEFORE the Supreme Court reached their unconscionable decision. Democrats Hollis French, Scott Kawasaki and Les Gara sponsored a bill in response to Citizens United that would force corporations to be accountable for their campaigns.
Had Wally Hickel been a state Republican legislator, I imagine he would have co-sponsored that legislation. Contrast that to today’s corporate Republican shills in our state government; Republican Bill Stoltze held the bill hostage in the House Finance Committee in an effort to kill it. Republicans Jay Ramras and Anna Fairclough, among others, tried unsuccessfully to destroy the bill once it reached the floor and then voted for it anyway because no one would want to be on record as voting to allow unlimited anonymous corporate influence.
Governor Hickel was proud to be an environmentalist.
Hickel placed seven species of whales on the endangered list, fought to protect the Everglades in Florida, and his staff reached out to the country’s youth with programs like “Earth Day” in 1970.
Today, Generation Z Republicans sue the Federal Government over endangered species’ listings. Both Palin AND Parnell filed lawsuits against the FEDS over different endangered species-be it the polar bear or the beluga whale, Republicans can be counted on to instill their free market ideology on our wildlife. ‘Well…the ice decided it was time for the Polar Bear to become extinct!’ or ‘hey, there are plenty of belugas in the Bering Sea and Bristol Bay!” -even though those whales are different, genetically, then the belugas in Cook Inlet.
I disagreed with Governor Hickel over predator control. But, unlike the bull-headed Half-Governor Palin and her male Doppelganger Governor Parnell, Hickel called off the wolf control program under threat of a tourism boycott.
“…groups immediately called for a tourism boycott, which the Alaska Tourism and Marketing Council estimated would cost the state’s $1.1 billion tourism industry $85 million in 1993. Wayne Pacelle, national director of the Fund for Animals, explained, “We felt that the governor would not be swayed by pleas for compassion or biological arguments, but only by naked economic pressure” (Waterman, 1993, p. 52). With that, Alaska Governor Walter Hickel succumbed to the pressure and on December 22, instructed the ADF&G to suspend the wolf control program for 1993.”
Unlike the polarizing, non-stop, anti-union, racist, hateful drivel coming from todays Republicans, Wally Hickel took the high road. He always looked out for Alaska’s best interests. He embraced unions. His Hotel Captain Cook is a UNION HOTEL! Unlike the Hilton and Sheraton hotels, the Captain Cook is NOT under union boycott and remains the finest hotel in Alaska.
Governor Walter Hickel tried to do what was best for Alaska. Hickel embraced his political enemies. He reached out across political lines. Democrat and Alaska Constitution architect Vic Fischer was a close friend and at his bedside during his last days. I think Vic best sums up Wally Hickel’s legacy:
“Wally was a dreamer and a doer and he really loved Alaska. Whatever he did was always designed to make Alaska better. He used to say that he is beyond parties, basically he felt we should be not just bipartisan-we should do things nonpartisan for the sake of Alaska.”
Governor Hickel was a statesman-the likes of which might not pass this way again.
Today’s Republicans ought to take a lesson from our former Governor.
May You Rest in Peace Walter J. Hickel.
You will be missed.
“…For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”