Memorial Day: Reflections on servant leadership - Must Read Alaska
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Monday, July 6, 2020
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Memorial Day: Reflections on servant leadership


Memorial Day is especially poignant for me this year as I reflect upon what the words duty, honor, and sacrifice mean in the context of legislative service to this great state. But before I elaborate, let me set the stage with some facts.

Alaska’s Constitution, in Article 2, Section 8, limits a regular legislative session to 120 consecutive calendar days from the date it convenes. The same section also requires “The legislature shall adopt…deadlines for scheduling session work not inconsistent with provisions controlling the length of the session.” These two provisions exist for a reason and are non-negotiable. Together, they indicate that the will of the people is for the legislature to complete the people’s business in a timely and disciplined manner.

In 2006, Alaskans approved an initiative further limiting regular legislative sessions by statute to 90 days. Clearly, the intent of the people was to complete the people’s business in a much timelier manner. This too, is a non-negotiable requirement.

Regardless of which number you choose to use, regular session lengths are purposefully limited and deadlines are supposed to be established to ensure session work is accomplished by the end of the session.

Special legislative sessions are limited by Article 2, Section 9, to a very short 30 days. If regular session constitutional limits are to have meaning, special legislative sessions must be reserved to address extraordinary and occasional issues. Special legislative sessions should not be used as an ordinary means to accomplish regular session work.

As we all reflect upon the sacrifices our heroes were asked to make on behalf of a grateful nation, there is something to be learned and applied to our current legislative predicament: Our heroes lived a leadership example for us all to follow.

The words “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” effectively describes the ultimate expression of servant leadership. We honor the sacrifices our heroes made when we pause for a day of national remembrance. We fully honor their sacrifices when we live in a way that makes their sacrifice worthwhile. While we don’t expect to be called upon to lay down our lives in performance of our legislative duties, we are called upon to be servant leaders. We work for the Alaska people, and we shouldn’t forget who our masters are.

To fail to complete the work set before us during our regular session and this special session is a dereliction of duty. To delay our work into a second special session is to blatantly defy the will of the people and disregard our constitutional and statutory obligations. This is not living in a manner worthy of the sacrifices made by so many of our friends.

It is expected that we will agree to disagree with each other on policy matters; we need only to engage in the legislative process and achieve an outcome. Delaying now and forcing a second special session is unnecessary and unwise. To disregard the intent, if not the letter of the law, for political gain, is inexcusable.

It is time for the leaders of the two houses of the Legislature to prioritize and schedule the work of the people to be completed by the end of this special session.

To do otherwise is to invite righteous condemnation from our masters and to bring shame on ourselves as we devalue the sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate price so that we may continue this experiment in self-government. We must rise to the occasion and prove that we are worthy of their sacrifices.

Representative Ben Carpenter serves District 29, Kenai. He retired from the Alaska Army National Guard in 2018 after 21 years of military service, including 12 years on active duty and six deployments to the Middle East with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army. He was elected in 2018.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Well said.

    Bryce would learn a lot by your words. Yet he obstructs and is now looking at “security” if and when the second session (his and Cathy Giessels doing) is held. He fears his “masters” as you so well point out.

  • Amen.

  • Now for actions to match words…
    Carpenter and comrades are outnumbered and surrounded?

    According to another military man, that simplifies the problem.
    Now they can attack in a different direction.
    Sitrep requested.

  • Ben, you speak (write) the truth. We the people of this state have seen this lack of understanding of duty by many elected Representative/Senators in this legislature. Political wrangling to gain or remain in power is addictive and no one is immune. Those that understand their duty and the time sensitive expectations of the residents of Alaska need to work together to bring this 31st legislature to a close.

    I am truly saddened by the standoff between the legislative leaders and the Governor over the 2019 forward funded education money. Looking at the Alaska Constitution, I side with the Governor.

  • Couldn’t agree more!

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