If only all transitions of power could be as peaceful as Alaska

Posted: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Just before last weekend's governor's picnic, and before the transition of power from former Gov. Sarah Palin to Gov. Sean Parnell, I returned from attending the National Conference of State Legislatures annual convention in Philadelphia.

While at the NCSL meeting, I was privileged to attend a naturalization ceremony for a number of new Americans who immigrated to our country from all parts of the globe. As I listened to these new citizens take their oaths to renounce any allegiance to their previous nationality and swear to abide by the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States, I was reminded what a great nation this is. I was pleased to help welcome these new Americans to all of the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship, including the right to vote and thereby trigger the periodic peaceful passage of power from one leader to another.

On Sunday here in Fairbanks, we saw an example of this political process at work. On the stage in front of the riverboat Nenana, we witnessed the uneventful and seamless transition of power from one governor to the next.

This kind of transition is exactly as it was envisioned by our nation's founding fathers 233 years ago and is a large part of what still attracts immigrants to our shores. We have only to look south of our borders, to Honduras for example, to understand how fragile the peaceful transition of political power can be taken for granted. All around the world, we see leaders fighting off the efforts of their own people to be free. In Honduras, it would appear that the people have successfully protected their constitution from a despot who, while he was elected, made an attempt to consolidate his power in defiance of the law and constitution.

In Iran, we are witnessing the instability brought on by a regime more concerned with remaining in power than ensuring free and transparent national elections. Protests and rioting in the streets have now been followed by the brutal oppression, rounding up, torture and execution of many of the protesters.

By contrast, we in America have a long and settled tradition for respecting the rule of law and the results of our local, state, and national elections. The 2000 presidential election, with its long recounts and U.S. Supreme Court decision, could have resulted in violent and destabilizing protests had it not been for the deep respect of our nation's time tested principles of our republic. This kind of stability is a key component to the political freedom that exists in our nation which in turn underpins the economic prosperity we have enjoyed.

So it was with this in mind that, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Fairbanks, I watched as Gov. Sarah Palin addressed Alaskans for the last time as Governor and then handed over the reins of power to Gov. Sean Parnell. I think I speak for all members of the Legislature when I say I look forward to a very productive working relationship with Parnell.

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