The steady progress toward the shortening of summer shows itself with the depressing decrease, fewer golden rays pouring through my kid-smudged windows. The leaves make their subtle turn toward yellow and the ground. The pair of neighborhood ravens swoop over the house, their kids already off to raven college or somewhere fun. The coming season in Alaska could bring a sense of renewed optimism with a chance for change despite the coming darkness and cold, but I worry Alaska voters will continue down the same dark path we’ve been on for decades. The boundless energy and excitement of summer; leaves, and this time of year for many of us also delivers a tinge of dread. The fall voting season will roll in like a tide, with predictable and sad news that Alaskans will choose to vote predictably against the real hope and promise of our state: the youth.
From the days of my own youth until now, nearly five decades of death, little to nothing has been done to focus Alaska’s true potential. I won’t bore you with the statistics you have already heard. It’s depressing enough to know we lead the nation in suicide. What is even more depressing is our collective apathy and inability to focus our political will on anything more inspiring than tired old arguments about resource development, jobs, gas pipelines and roads to prospective mega-mines.
For once we have a politician in our state running for governor who can campaign on saving our kids. Someone brave enough to point out that one of the leading causes of death for youth in our state is suicide. Think about this. What a statistic like this means is that too many of our youth choose to take their own lives rather than live another day here.
Two of the three viable candidates for governor have already had a chance to move the needle on creating hope for our children in our state and frankly they failed. The statistics remained the same. They had their shot to do something big and missed. How did they inspire optimism or vision for us? They didn’t.
One candidate has a proven track record of working here for decades to help foster kids, some of our most vulnerable youth. One candidate has continued to show who matters most. We need a governor who will put the focus of Alaska’s true potential on changing the way we think about resources and development. The most important resource we have and really the only hope for a vibrant future for us all here is our children. The youth need to be inspired. They need to envision Alaska as a place that values them above everything else. They need a road, not to some mega mine, far-flung oil rig or gas pipeline, but to hope. Real hope.
I’m voting for Les Gara as Alaska’s next governor, and I hope you’ll join me.
Don Rearden is an author and professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, as well as the author of several books, including his most recent poetry collection “Without A Paddle.” He lives in Anchorage.
If you or someone you know are dealing with a mental crisis or suicidal thoughts, you can call the Alaska Careline by dialing 988 or 1-877-266-HELP. For more information on the Alaska Suicide Prevention Council and suicide in Alaska, visit dhss.alaska.gov/suicideprevention.
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