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Let's give thanks for a city that thrives as a welcoming community

  • Author: Mayor Ethan Berkowitz
    | Opinion
    , Mara Kimmel
    | Opinion
  • Updated: November 23, 2016
  • Published November 23, 2016

The moon, a day past full, rises over the Chugach Mountains and downtown Anchorage in this view from the Coastal Trail on Tuesday, November 15, 2016. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Safe, secure, and strong. That is what Anchorage strives to be – for each and every resident. Physically safe on our streets and in our homes. Financially secure in our businesses and fiscally sound in our city budget. And strong – strong enough to overcome our challenges, strong enough to take advantage of our opportunities, strong enough to be a model for others to follow. Strong enough to be in charge of our own fate.

In this season of thanks and change, we express gratitude for our blessings. By any measure, we are truly a fortunate people. When we pause to recognize the attributes that make Anchorage a magnetic north, a place that attracts us with prospects and wonder, and connects us. We are still so few in number, but we realize the potential that exists today is as strong as it has been at any point in our history.

We remain a land rich in resources and promise, and at our core we have a tradition of self-reliance and interdependence. Our decisions about our future are choices between options, not questions of survival. Our future, like our past, builds on a foundation of mutual respect.

We recognize the recent election unsettled members of our community, and resolve to reassure all who call Anchorage home that this city is committed to the constitutionally enshrined value that all will be treated fairly, regardless of race, religion or national origin, and each person is entitled to the protections afforded under the law.

Part of what makes Alaska 'the Great Land' is that here everyone counts, and everyone can make a difference. Anchorage is home to us all – no matter how long we've lived here, or where we came from, or what we look like or how we dress. There are no second-class Alaskans.

When Anchorage became a nationally recognized "Welcoming City" in 2014, we strengthened our commitment to living these values. "Welcoming" is a way of life that defines the heart of our city.

We are welcoming because we understand that we rely on each other. Whether we are from a village upstream from where our city now sits, or a war-torn community halfway around the world – whether we came here for work or were born here of generations and ancestors from long ago, we all call Anchorage home.

It is our families and traditions, our neighbors and neighborhoods. As Alaskans, what matters is our willingness to extend a hand, not what color, political persuasion or sexual orientation may be on the other end of that hand. We know when we feel safe, we are secure and as a community, we are strong.

While giving thanks this holiday, our family knows how lucky we are to be living in Anchorage. We wish all our neighbors the happiness of the season as we marvel at the remarkable character of our community. Here, there is no "them." There is "us." That is something to be grateful for.

Ethan Berkowitz is the mayor of Anchorage. Mara Kimmel leads the Welcoming Anchorage initiative. Together, they are raising their family in Anchorage.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email to commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com

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