FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Alaska celebrates its 61st birthday Friday, marking its induction into the United States. We sat down with State Senator John Coghill (R – North Pole), whose late father Jack Coghill was a member of the Alaska constitutional convention and a signatory of the constitution, to discuss Alaska’s past, present, and future.
January 3, 1959. President Eisenhower signs the Alaska Proclamation, making Alaska the 49th state.
“I was five years old at the constitutional convention, and eight years old the year we became a state, so my memory of it was really from my dad’s attitude,” said Sen. Coghill, “And I can tell you of what I know of the attitude in those days: ‘let’s be a self-determining state.’”
Sen. Coghill tells a story of his late father and William A. Egan, fellow constitutional convention member and first governor of Alaska. “I remember him and dad sitting at a table one time, and they were arguing,” recalled Sen. Coghill. “And it sounded like they were arguing with each other. And I was just […] at that point, a six or seven year old kid. Went outside, played, come back and they were laughing and carrying on like they were old time friends; and they were friends. It’s just that they argued strenuously about what the next move should be.”
According to Sen. Coghill, Alaska’s history is intimately tied into watershed moments in American history. “The Alcan Highway was built because the Japanese were going to try to invade Alaska,” said the senator, referring to World War II, “And then, in the Cold War era […] our communication system became a big deal,” he added. “Now, we find ourselves in this very interesting geography because of the Arctic, because of global climate change.”
Today and towards the future, Sen. Coghill says that we continue the legacy of our predecessors. “We stand on the shoulders of those who built Alaska,” he said. “You take what they did, and they move forward.”
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