OPINION: USS Ted Stevens carries the spirit of Alaska’s greatest senator

It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. That was Ted Stevens.

In 2026, America will see the mightiest warship of our modern age, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, commissioned into the Navy Fleet as the USS Ted Stevens. It is part of the backbone of a Navy strong enough to preserve the peace of the world. The ship’s namesake, Alaska’s legendary U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, is widely regarded as the greatest leader in the history of the state.

On Aug. 19, 2023, pre-commissioning unit Ted Stevens, DDG128, was christened in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The United States Navy considers this vessel the world’s most advanced and powerful warship. The prospective commanding officer, Capt. Mary Katey Hays, said, “The magnitude of this ship is appropriately captured by the magnitude of its namesake, Ted Stevens.”

At the commissioning ceremony, one of the most important ceremonial milestones in the life of the ship, Ted Stevens will officially enter the active fleet of the U.S. Navy and move from a vessel with a hull number to a ship with a name and spirit, the USS Ted Stevens. The Navy will select the host port community for this event during the next few months.

Ted Stevens was born on Nov. 18, 1923. In 2010, he perished in a plane crash in Southwest Alaska. The years of his life spanned storm and tragedy but through it all, he possessed an unrivaled reservoir of sustained and unflinching courage that rallied the nation for Alaska’s statehood and the upward progress of our people.

It is a besetting fault we often forget the debt of honor we owe to our forebears for their accomplishments and sacrifices which today ensure our common good. Most assuredly, the USS Ted Stevens will carry the honorable legacy of “Uncle Ted” to the next generation of Americans.

Stevens’ service as a World War II aviator, recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, U.S. Attorney for the Territory of Alaska, fierce proponent of Alaska statehood, solicitor of the U.S. Department of Interior, and more than 40 years as a U.S. senator immensely benefited America and his home state of Alaska. His landmark legislative accomplishments are unparalleled in their breadth and significance.


Among these is the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which produced today’s powerful Alaska Native corporations, Title IX legislation banning sex-based discrimination in federally funded institutions, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Act opening Alaska’s vast petroleum resources to the benefit of our nation’s energy security, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act creating the 200-mile limit allowing the U.S. to end the exploitation of fish stocks by foreign fleets, and establishing the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Alaska U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan recently commented that Ted Stevens somehow shaped or brought into being most of the daily things of significance to Alaskans. Yes, he was larger than life. How apropos that the official motto of the USS Ted Stevens is “lead with courage.”

Ted Stevens awakened our country to Alaska’s strategic role in the Arctic, and that understanding the Arctic was key to our national security. In 2022, we saw the opening of the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, where America is training the next generation of Arctic leaders, applying focused research to U.S. security interests in the Arctic, and building critical domestic and international partnerships.

Today, Alaska is recognized as the sentinel tower of the western and northern approach to our nation, on which 332 million Americans depend for their security and existence. It is fitting that the flag of the USS Ted Stevens will soon fly high upon the sea carrying the spirit of its namesake and showing the vigor and vitality of America to be unimpaired, our determination as strong and our endurance as lasting.

The Navy has neither the authorization nor funding to conduct traditional and celebratory events surrounding a ship’s commissioning ceremony. Consequently, this unique commissioning celebration is entirely funded through donations to a non-profit, the USS Ted Stevens Commissioning Committee, established for this purpose. The committee invites every person, entity, and organization who wishes to honor the ship and crew of the USS Ted Stevens to join us in support of this once-in-a lifetime commissioning event. The spirit of this indomitable man is embodied in this ship and calls us to fight for Alaska, protect America, and honor the men and women who serve our country.

Chuck Kopp and Cherie Curry are lifelong Alaskans, public policy consultants and mediators. They serve on the board of directors for the USS Ted Stevens Commissioning Committee. For more information on how you can donate, volunteer and support the commissioning of the USS Ted Stevens, please visit https://usstedstevens.org.

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