Who is Sarah Palin?
It’s the question nearly all of America has been asking since Friday morning, when U.S. Sen. John McCain announced our governor would be his vice presidential running mate on the Republican ticket in November’s general election.
Google searches for “Sarah Palin,” “Palin” and even “Palin Vogue magazine” have exploded as the nation clamors for information on a relative political newcomer suddenly poised to possibly be second in line to be president of the United States.
Who is Sarah Palin?
For most in the Lower 48, they know what McCain and Palin herself told them during her acceptance speech from a rally in Dayton, Ohio. She’s a mother of five, a self-proclaimed “hockey mom” and her oldest son is less than a year removed from enlistment in the U.S. Armed Forces and days away from a deployment to Iraq.
This is the Sarah Palin the nation knows today and it is exciting to realize the rest of the United States will get to know the Sarah Palin the Mat-Su Valley has known for her lifetime. Politically, she’s tough on corruption and isn’t afraid of alienating those in her own party if she believes doing so is the right thing to do. We also know her — then as Sarah Heath — as a Wasilla High School student and standout player on the school’s 1982 state championship basketball team. We know her as a fresh, eager reporter covering sports for the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman after graduating from the University of Idaho with a degree in communications/journalism.
We know her as a former Wasilla city councilwoman and mayor. And, of course, for the past 20 months, we’ve known her as a governor tough enough to successfully take on the Last Frontier’s good old boy network.
It’s not hyperbole to say the naming of Governor Palin to the vice presidential slot on the 2008 GOP ticket was an epic event for the Mat-Su Valley.
Friday morning’s announcement stunned everyone, but here in Alaska, and particularly in the Valley, the stunned silence was quickly followed by, as Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell put it, a whoop of excitement.
And whether you are backing the newly revitalized GOP ticket of McCain-Palin, or not to be swayed by having Alaska’s female top executive “a heartbeat from the presidency,” the Palin pick is giving Alaska a positive spotlight like nothing else could.
It hasn’t been a good year or so for politics in Alaska. Convictions, allegations, investigations, scandals and indictments — from the former governor’s office, to some in our congressional delegation, to seated and former state legislators — the list of those tainted by scandal is not only long, but represents some of the mighty in Alaska politics. On a news report on Friday, one analyst called Alaska’s scandals “worse than Washington’s [D.C.].”
With the spotlight on Palin, who has a reputation as a fighter and a reformer, the spin on Alaska has gone from the “bridge to nowhere” to the road to the future.
Not only could Alaska’s reputation see some redemption, the state, the Mat-Su Valley and Wasilla in particular has become the center of the political universe — if for a moment. As media worldwide try to answer the question “Who is Sarah Palin?,” their readers, viewers and listeners will learn some of those well-kept secrets about the 49th state. There are no igloos. We don’t call our Indigenous Peoples by the generic “Eskimos” anymore. Alaska is not a small island off the coast of California, just north of Hawaii.
Anyone who has lived here for any time knows that as silly as those sound, you’re liable to run into someone who doesn’t know those truths. Truth and transparency have been bywords for Palin. As she enters the national arena where she’ll be tugged and tormented, vilified and denigrated, we hope she sticks to her guns — metaphorically and literally.
Because no matter the politics, for Wasilla, Alaska, to send its commercial-fishing, gun-toting, hockey-mom former mayor toward the White House, that’s history. And we’re proud of it.