February 9, 2009

EIGHT STARS OF GOLD: A Lasting Celebration of Alaska’s 50th Anniversary


Alaska’s 50th anniversary may only last one year, but the celebration will continue through UA’s multi-faceted project, “Eight Stars of Gold: Fostering a Spirit of Civic Engagement in Modern Alaska.”

The goal of Eight Stars of Gold, which focuses on developing youth leadership, encouraging civic engagement and supporting historic preservation, is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s statehood and create legacy projects that persist long after the anniversary year ends.

“Ultimately, the Eight Stars of Gold project is about the power of remembrance and the courage it takes to face the unknown of tomorrow,” said UA’s Karen Perdue, who is overseeing the project. “Eight Stars of Gold is dedicated to the proposition that genuine strength and humility comes from a greater knowledge of the past.”

Inspired by Alaska’s state flag, designed by the late Benny Benson, and the state song, “Alaska’s Flag,” by the late Marie Drake, UA undertook eight separate initiatives as part of the project:

• At the UAA Student Constitutional Convention last April, 70 student delegates gathered to craft, debate and vote on 14 proposed resolutions.

• The October 2008 Alaska Historical Society Conference looked back at 50 years of statehood, while also discussing current issues and Alaska’s next 50 years.

• The Forum of Young Alaskans in October encouraged hundreds of youth to appreciate Alaska’s history and heritage and help plan for Alaska’s future.

• The Conference of Young Alaskans in January 2009 will bring together 55 young delegates from across the state to consider and provide recommendations on important state issues.

• The life of E.L. “Bob” Bartlett, Alaska’s first senator, was commemorated in an hour-long documentary, which aired on KUAC/AlaskaOne in December.

• The Statehood Book Series, being published by the University of Alaska Press and featuring top Alaska writers, will serve as a permanent record of Alaska’s past and hopes for the future.

• The Oral History Series seeks to collect and preserve oral and written histories from prominent Alaska pioneers, politicians, business and civic leaders.

• The Traveling Statehood Exhibit provided an opportunity for Alaskans to learn about the struggles and triumphs of the journey to statehood.

The inspiring effort to commemorate Alaska’s 50th anniversary through a series of lasting projects was made possible by the contributions of several generous companies and organizations.  A special thank you to the Alaska Humanities Forum and ConocoPhillips for their support of the UAA Student Constitutional Convention; BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. for underwriting the Alaska Historical Society Conference; AT&T Alascom and the AT&T Foundation for funding the Forum of Young Alaskans; Northrim Bank for sponsoring the Conference of Young Alaskans; and New York Life and the New York Life Foundation for investing in the Bartlett documentary.

“These companies and organizations, along with most Alaskans, believe in a state whose future shines as brightly as the eight stars on our state flag,” said UA president Mark Hamilton. “This project wouldn’t have been possible without their commitment.”

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