Alaska State Legislature

House of Representatives

Juneau, Alaska 99811

 

AN ADDRESS DELIVERED ON AUGUST 16, 1980 AT

THE FIRST NATIONAL ASIAN/PACIFIC WOMEN'S CONFERENCE

IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

By Representative Thelma Buchholdt

IN SPITE OF MY HECTIC RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN, I COULDN'T RESIST THE INVITATION TO SPEAK BEFORE YOU TODAY IF ONLY TO INSPIRE YOU AND ENCOURAGE YOU TO DO WHAT I'M DOING:  ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS AS AN ELECTED OFFICIAL.  BECAUSE MANY OF OUR ASIAN AND PACIFIC ISLAND COMMUNITY LEADERS ARE WOMEN, POLITICS IS A COMPATIBLE CAREER BUT WHICH WE SELDOM FOLLOW.  WE OFTEN FEEL WE CANNOT SERVE IN A WHITE MAJORITY.

THE DISTRICT I REPRESENT IN THE ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE IS PREDOMINANTLY WHITE WORKING CLASS NEIGHBORHOOD WITH VERY FEW ASIAN/PACIFIC FAMILIES.  BUT ALASKANS, LIKE MOST AMERICANS, VALUE GOOD POLITICAL LEADERSHIP FROM WHOMEVER PROVIDES IT.  IF I CAN GET ELECTED TO REPRESENT HOUSE DISTRICT 9 IN ANCHORAGE, ALASKA, YOU TOO CAN GET ELECTED WHERE YOU LIVE.

I'M SERVING IN OUR LEGISLATURE DURING AN EXCITING TIME IN ALASKA'S HISTORY.  WHEN I WAS FIRST ELECTED TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IN 1974, OUR STATE REVENUES HARDLY PAID FOR THE COST OF GOVERNMENT.  I SERVED ON THE HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE AS VICE CHAIR, UP UNTIL THEN A POSITION NEVER BEFORE HELD BY A WOMAN.  FOR TWO YEARS, I LISTENED TO TESTIMONY ABOUT HOW THE STATE SHOULD PROVIDE FOR NEEDED HUMAN SERVICES AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.  BUT THERE WAS LITTLE MONEY FOR THESE PROGRAMS.  MY SECOND TERM WAS ALSO FRAUGHT WITH AUSTERITY.  BUT LAST YEAR OUR STATE REVENUES INCREASED BY BILLIONS OF COLLARS FROM OIL ROYALTIES AND TAXES.  NOW, AT LAST, AFTER SO MANY YEARS OF GOING WITHOUT THE COMFORTS AND SERVICES OTHER AMERICANS ENJOY, ALASKANS CAN NOW FINANCE CAREFUL RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT THROUGHOUT OUR STATE, AND RAISE OUR STANDARD OF LIVING.

WE ALASKANS COME INTO OUR PUBLIC WEALTH AT AN AWKWARD TIME IN AMERICA.  AS OUR NATION STRUGGLES TO MAINTAIN ECONOMIC BALANCE, OUR FELLOW AMERICANS CONTEMPTUOUSLY CALL US "BLUE-EYED ARABS,"  WE SEEM TO BE SUFFERING FROM THE SAME KIND OF POLITICAL REACTION AS MIDDLE EASTERN OIL NATIONS.  FOR AS OPEC RAISES THE PRICE OF OIL, ALASKA'S ROYALTY INCOME ALSO INCREASES.

LET ME USE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO COMPARE ALASKA'S POLITICAL PROBLEMS WITH SOME OF THOSE OF OUR ASIAN-PACIFIC COMMUNITY LEADERS.  THIS WILL ENABLE ME TO ILLUSTRATE WHY I FEEL IT IMPORTANT FOR OUR COMMUNITY LEADERS TO RUN FOR PUBIC OFFICE.

THERE WAS A TIME WHEN ASIAN-AMERICANS SUFFERED POLITICAL DISCRIMINATION BECAUSE OF OUR SUCCESSFUL WAGE COMPETITION WITH OTHER WORKERS.  TODAY THIS WAGE COMPETITION HAS BECOME WORLD-WIDE.  WE ARE TOLD THE AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY, FOR INSTANCE, IS LOSING OUT TO FOREIGN COMPETITION, BUT THE EXPATRIATION OF AMERICAN INDUSTRY IS MORE SERIOUS THAN THAT.  BECAUSE OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE, MANY JOBS ARE BEING EXPORTED FROM THE UNITED STATES TO ASIAN NATIONS.  THIS AMERICAN INVESTMENT IN ASIAN INDUSTRIALIZATION EARNS PROFITS FOR AMERICAN STOCKHOLDERS, BUT IT IS SLOW TO PROVIDE JOBS FOR UNEMPLOYED AMERICAN WORKERS AT HOME.  THIS COULD RESULT IN POLITICAL REACTION AGAINST US AS IF WE WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR AMERICA'S INDUSTRIAL EXPORT OF JOBS ABROAD.

LIKEWISE, ALASKA IS BEING DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE WE ARE DOING WELL AS A YOUNG STATE WITH A SMALL POPULATION.  WE HAVE FEWER THAN 500,000 PEOPLE.  ALASKA BECAME A STATE IN 1959 AFTER MANY YEARS OF FEDERAL TERRITORIAL STATUS.  I DIDN'T MOVE TO ALASKA UNTIL 1965, SIX YEARS AFTER STATEHOOD, BUT I HAVE HEARD TERRIBLE STORIES OF WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO LIVE IN AN AMERICAN PACIFIC TERRITORY WITH NO REAL LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND NO REAL ECONOMIC CONTROL.  FOR YEARS ALASKA WAS TOLD IT WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO FINANCE STATE GOVERNMENT, AND AS I UNDERSTAND IT, THE TERRITORY WAS A PROJECT OPERATED BY MIDDLE-RANKED CIVIL SERVANTS IN THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR BASED IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

AFTER STATEHOOD, ALASKA WAS GIVEN THE RIGHT TO SELECT 103 MILLION ACRES FOR STATE OWNERSHIP AND NATURAL RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT.  AS A RESULT, AMERICA IS MUCH LESS DEPENDENT UPON IMPORTED OIL BECAUSE OF THE PRUDHOE BAY OIL FIELDS DEVELOPED ON THE STATE'S ARCTIC LAND SELECTIONS.  FURTHER, THE STATE HAS BEEN ABLE TO COLLECT OIL REVENUES TO FINANCE ITS PROGRAMS.

IN THE MIDST OF ALL THE POLITICALLY SCARY THINGS HAPPENING LATELY, YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THE CONTROVERSY ABOUT THE ALASKA LANDS BILL NOW BEING HEATEDLY DEBATED IN THE U.S. SENATE.  ALASKA'S ECONOMIC POWER OBTAINED UPON STATEHOOD IS BEING THREATENED BY PASSAGE OF THIS LANDS BILL WHICH WOULD REPEAL THE HOME RULE POWER WE ALASKANS USED TO PROVIDE AMERICA THE OIL SHE NEEDS AND USES TODAY.  WHAT AN EMBARRASSING THING TO BE DEBATED AT A TIME WHEN AMERICA SHOULD TAKE PRIDE AND SATISFACTION IN HOW WELL OUR SYSTEM WORKS IN ALASKA, HOW WELL ALASKA IS DOING AS ONE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

YET, IN ALASKA, SEVERAL INTERIOR DEPARTMENTAL LAND MANAGEMENT AGENCIES HAVE JOINED IN POLITICAL ACTION WITH THE CONSERVATIONIST LOBBY TO STOP OUR STATE LAND SELECTIONS UNTIL FEDERAL PARKS, FORESTS AND WILDLIFE REFUGES ARE ORGANIZED TO BRING ALASKA'S MOST PRODUCTIVE LAND UNDER FEDERAL CONTROL, AND NO LONGER AVAILABLE FOR STATE LAND SELECTION AND DEVELOPMENT.  I'M FOR SAVING SOME OF THIS LAND TOO, BUT WITHIN REASON.  DEVELOPMENT OF ALASKA'S LAND MAY HAVE TO BE APPROVED BY THE MIDDLE-RANKING INTERIOR DEPARTMENT BUREAUCRATS, JUST LIKE IN THE DAYS WHEN ALASKA WAS A TERRITORY BEFORE INTERIOR LOST ITS POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC CONTROL TO THE PEOPLE OF ALASKA.

THIS POLITICAL REPRESENTATION IS BEING DEBATED IN THE SENATE AT THE TIME WHEN OTHER NATIONS ARE A LITTLE WORRIED ABOUT US.  AS YOU KNOW, LOCAL SELF-DETERMINATION IS NOT AN AMERICAN INVENTION.  IT IS ENJOYED THROUGHOUT ASIA.  HOW AMERICA TREATS ALASKA WILL BE REGARDED AS A MEASURE OF HOW WELL AMERICA IS PREPARED TO RESPECT THE SOVEREIGNTY OF OTHERS THROUGHOUT THE ASIAN PACIFIC.  FOR LIKE ALASKA, PACIFIC ASIAN COUNTRIES ARE RESOURCE-RICH, AND IT IS FROM THE ORDERLY DEVELOPMENT OF THEIR RESOURCES THAT INCOME WILL BE DERIVED TO FINANCE STRONG LOCAL GOVERNMENT.

AMERICAN CORPORATE INVESTMENT IN ASIAN NATIONS HAS LED TO THE EXPANSION OF AMERICAN CONSUMER MARKET COMPETITION TO THE INTERNATIONAL LEVELS PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN.  THIS INTERNATIONAL INDUSTRIAL EXPANSION INTO ASIA WILL STRENGTHEN THE OVERALL AMERICAN ECONOMY, WHILE STRENGTHENING FOREIGN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.  BUT IT IS CAUSING TERRIBLE SHORT-TERM DOMESTIC INDUSTRIAL DEPRESSION AND UNEMPLOYMENT.  AS ASIAN-PACIFIC POLITICAL LEADERS, WE MUST BE SENSITIVE TO PUBLIC ANXIETY ABOUT "LOSING" JOBS TO FOREIGN PRODUCERS.  I AM DISTURBED, FOR INSTANCE, WHEN AMERICAN AUTO EXECUTIVES AND TELEVISION MANUFACTURERS BLAME JAPAN AND OTHER ASIAN NATIONS FOR THEIR ECONOMIC PROBLEMS.  ALL AMERICAN INDUSTRY WILL BENEFIT FROM TRADE AND ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP WITH ASIA, AN EMERGING BOOM MARKET FOR AMERICAN TECHNOLOGICAL KNOW-HOW, NATURAL RESOURCES, AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS.

THERE IS A PARALLEL BETWEEN THE POLITICAL REACTION AGAINST ALASKA AND REACTION AGAINST ASIAN MANUFACTURING AND MARKETING.  BOTH RESULT FROM LACK OF PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE.  IF OUR VOTERS WERE TRULY INFORMED ABOUT OUR LAND PROBLEMS IN ALASKA, OR THE BENEFITS OF ASIAN MANUFACTURING TO OUR NATIONAL ECONOMY, WE WOULD NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT FEDERAL POLITICAL REACTION.  OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS, HUNDREDS OF PRIVATE ALASKAN CITIZENS HAVE COME TO WASHINGTON, D.C. TO LOBBY FOR GOOD ALASKAN LANDS LEGISLATION.  THEY HAVE BECOME POLITICALLY INVOLVED.

THERE ARE MANY LEVELS OF POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT.  RATHER THAN DISCUSS TRADITIONAL AREAS, I WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST THE STATE DEPARTMENT AS A FOCUS FOR OUR POLITICAL PARTICIPATION.  AS ASIAN-PACIFIC POLITICAL LEADERS, WE COULD PROVIDE ADVICE ABLE TO STRENGTHEN OUR NATIONAL ASIAN FOREIGN POLICY JUST AS OUR CITIZENS OF EUROPEAN HERITAGE STRONGLY INFLUENCE OUR EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY.

I WILL END THIS BY EXPRESSING MY APPRECIATION FOR HAVING BEEN ASKED TO SPEAK WITH YOU ABOUT MY WORK, AND OUR PROBLEMS IN ALASKA.  I AM VERY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE FUTURE OF AMERICA'S ASIAN/PACIFIC COMMUNITIES.  WE ARE PROVIDING LEADERSHIP AMERICA NEEDS TODAY AND TOMORROW.

I HOPE MY EXPERIENCE IN ALASKA WILL ENCOURAGE YOU TO PURSUE PUBLIC OFFICE AS A MEANS OF CONTRIBUTING TO THE BETTERMENT OF OUR PEOPLE AND OUR NATION.

MARAMING SALAMAT.

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