By SARA RASMUSSEN
Alaska was rocked with news Wednesday evening and Thursday morning of the passing of Anchorage’s beloved, and universally-respected state Senator Chris Birch.
For the first time seemingly in months, the news cycle took a break from our state’s ongoing policy battles to rightfully mourn the loss of a devoted husband, father, grandpa, and friend. The outpouring of love and respect shown for Senator Birch and his family over the last 24 hours is undoubtedly a testament to who he was.
Senator Birch was a charismatic Alaskan who captured a room instantly when he walked in. He was passionate and stood for his beliefs. While we did not always agree on every facet of every policy, our disagreement didn’t prevent him from treating me, and anyone else who might have disagreed, with the utmost respect. He didn’t allow political disagreements to become personal animosity the way that so many in this line of service do. He was quick to listen, slow to speak, and committed to the things he believed in.
Moments like these, as difficult as they are, puts into proper perspective the things that are truly important. We, as Alaskans can put our differences aside, come together and find common ground – even if that common ground is as simple as a friendship with a great man.
Our state is suffering from deep division, unlike anything I’ve seen in my lifetime as an Alaskan. But I choose to believe that Senator Birch’s passing will bring about a hidden blessing – an opportunity that only a refocusing of priorities can: to come together, to be unified on the common ground that we have, and to move forward with a little bit more kindness, compassion, and empathy towards each other.
Perhaps the statement from Senator Birch’s family says it best: “Life is short and can change at any moment. He never missed an opportunity to give a hug, lend a hand, or spend time with his loved ones. My only recommendation is to try to live your life like Chris Birch did. I know we do every day.”
In the hostile environment that is politics, may we never miss an opportunity to be a good neighbor and friend. There is no better way to honor the life of Chris Birch.
Rep. Sara Rasmussen serves District 22 in the Alaska Legislature.
Great comments, Sarah
Sara speaks eloquently for a few of us Freshman legislators. Statesmanship seemed to almost be a bit of a lost cause and Chris Birch was a fresh breath of air that kept us believing statesmanship was alive and well. He was a mentor to his two District House Rep’s and would share lunch with us and our staff to make us better legislators and truly show us how to serve our community with pride and dignity. His philosophy was some what like our great Senator Stevens once noted…”screw politics, just do what is right for Alaska” 🙂 We of course had our differences, but the one thing Chris never did was let politics come in the way of friendships. He was among the best our state had to offer and we will always remember his warmth, his smile and his non stop conversations….and we will always keep him in our hearts and our memories. I personally will always remember his greeting to me and with a firm hand shake…”My Representative” .
Chris was a true friend, statesman, and a community leader. He was a very proud grandfather, father, and husband. We are all fortunate to have had Chris engaged in sculpting the future of Alaska. His goals and objectives were always for the betterment of Alaska and not for his personal interest. He will be missed.
Yes, and the handshake was firm. I am enjoying the comments of those that knew him best. The stories of friendship. The stories of disagreements that could later be met with pleasant conversation and even lunch or a hike.
Sara’s words are representative of a person beyond her years, but they shouldn’t be. Laddie is correct that statesmanship has become a bit lost. Particularly with the progressive movement, screaming vile rants and violent protests as the recipe.
It is times like this that we pause for a moment and take notice of what is important in life, but all too often, go right back to negative patterns of destruction. I pray that at least the Alaska Legislature can come together and leave their petty self serving egos at the door, take a sip of Chris Birch, and as Sara has said, move forward with a little bit more kindness, compassion, and empathy towards each other, and be quick to listen, and slow to speak.
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