PUBLISHED: 4:35 PM on Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Lessons to learn from the Fourth

As we wrap up July 4th festivities this week, it's easy to get caught up in what the 4th has become, rather than where it started.

After all, it's one of the eight blessed retailing seasons (with Mom and Dad Days, Memorial and Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years).

It's the barbecuing (and maybe beer quaffing) holiday.

It's rife with fireworks and flag-waving and parades.

In the Southeast it should also be the kickoff to our best two months of fishing and boating.

But it's also a good time to remember a dream, not of leisure, but of freedom.

That small band of idealists willing to devote everything they had or dared to dream of, to create a nation based on liberty and democracy and the rights of all people.

They dreamed big.

And they made it work.

Today it looks so obvious, so easy, while our own problems look complex.

It's good for Alaskans to realize that our state is facing a lot of the same challenges those first patriots faced.

As they were, we're separated from our central government by time, distance and often philosophy.

We're also facing challenges that will go to the soul and future of our state.

Integrity: Despite recent revelations, proving our leaders have public over personal welfare at heart.

Economy: Developing the industries that will support the state when the oil runs out.

Representation: Developing national leadership to protect our communities' interests from political backlash.

Natural resources: Coming to grips with both our history and continuing dependence on resource development, and our need for savvy future industries that are sustainable and not resource dependent.

Cost of living: Ensuring that all Alaskans can sustain their day-to-day lives. Try explaining subsistence or $9 for a gallon of milk to suburbanites who don't know where their beef and chicken comes from.

We know the years ahead will be challenging and tumultuous.

We have to tell our story better, more cohesively, more proactively.

We also have to work together, even when we disagree.

And just as those first 13 colonies, we disagree among ourselves as often as with those outside.

As the old saying goes: "All politics is local."

So it's easy for us to divide ourselves among our own local peeves and projects - my road versus your bridge, your school versus my fine arts, my heritage versus your industry, my fish versus your mine.

But the law of divide and conquer is as strong today as it ever has been. As Ben Franklin observed more than 200 years ago, "We must hang together, or we will surely hang separately."

That's especially true as Alaska tries to find its way through the next decades.

Let's hope our leaders are as wise, or lucky, as our forefathers.

Leschper is general manager of the Capital City Weekly and advertising director of the Juneau Empire.Send e-mail to him