Senator will now have to fill a different role in Alaska's war to develop resources

Dan Fagan

Sen. Ted Stevens spoke for the last time on the Senate floor on Thursday. It's hard to imagine our most passionate, effective and outspoken advocate will never again plea with his senate colleagues to open ANWR.

"Uncle Ted" fought the good fight on ANWR, but in the end he was no match for a Democratic party which is beholden to the special interests of the powerful and well-funded environmental lobby.

But Stevens was successful on many other fronts in his fight for Alaska.

He said in his farewell speech, "I want everyone listening to know that I treasure every moment I've spent here representing Alaska and Alaskans, the land and the people that I love. Where there was nothing but tundra and forest, today there are now airports, roads, ports, water and sewer systems, hospitals, clinics, communications networks, research labs and much, much more."

And that is precisely why the left poured so much money into the campaign of his challenger Mark Begich. Stevens has been enemy No. 1 for those who want to shut down development in Alaska and turn us into nothing more than a state park.

Even though the war to develop our resources lost its general, the fight goes on. And Stevens can still play a key role in the battle.

We need his wisdom, experience and expertise. Our current political leaders would do well to rely on Stevens for advice and counsel.

In his farewell speech on Thursday, Stevens made it clear he is not finished serving. He said, "My mission in life is not completed. I believe God will give me more opportunities to be of service to Alaska and to our nation, and I look forward with a glad heart and with confidence in his justice and mercy."

At 85, Stevens is both mentally and physically fit. This past summer I spent some time with the senator and watched firsthand how he interacted with his staff. Make no mistake about it, Stevens was fully in charge and had a strong command of the issues.

Stevens clearly is facing a new chapter in his life. He now will be able to spend more time with his large family. He said on Thursday, "First and most importantly, I want to thank my family. After my wife Ann's tragic death in 1978, I thought the end of my career had come. But my dear wife Catherine entered my life in 1980 and, joined by my six children -- Susan, Beth, Ted, Walter, Ben, and Lily -- and my 11 grandchildren, my family has given me love, support and sacrifice, which made my continued career here in the Senate possible and gave it meaning. I dearly love each member of my family."

Before you start feeling sorry for Ted Stevens, keep in mind his large, loving family is standing by, ready to support him. They must be looking forward to spending more time with their "Uncle Ted".

And for the vast majority of Alaskans, Stevens has our strong love, affection and respect.

Our grandchildren's grandchildren will be reading about the great things Senator Ted Stevens has accomplished on behalf of Alaska.

Senator Stevens ended his speech on the Senate floor the same way he conducted his political career, with dignity and class.

He said, "I told a member of the press yesterday I don't have any rearview mirror. I look only forward. And I still see the day when I can remove the cloud that currently surrounds me. I close by saying and asking that God bless Alaska and our governor, God bless the United States of America and our president, and God bless the Senate and every member of this body. I yield the floor for the last time."

Senator, come home and enjoy the fellowship of Alaskans you have done so much to help. Senator, come home, we need you now more than ever.

Dan Fagan is a radio talk show host on KFQD AM 750. E-mail, dan@kfqd.com.


DAN FAGAN
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