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Eight Stars of Gold July 8, 2012

Posted by Wanetta Ayers in Ninth Star, People.
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Courtesy Alaska State Library

In 1926, a 13-year-old boy entered a contest, designing a flag that captured the spirit of the Great Land. Today schools, streets, and monuments bear the name of that boy. The story of Benny Benson and the Alaska flag are now part of the lore and legacy of Alaska.

Alaska Flag Day is recognized every year on July 9, the date it was first raised over the Jessie Lee Memorial Home in Seward, where then 13-year-old Benny Benson lived. Although his young life was touched by loss and upheaval, Benson’s design embodied the pride and hopes he held for his home.

On his design entry, Benson wrote, “The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaskan flower. The North Star is for the future state of Alaska, the most northerly in the union. The Dipper is for the Great Bear – symbolizing strenth (sic).” His design and evocative words later inspired Marie Drake to pen “Alaska’s Flag,” which would be set to music by Elinor Dusenbury, and eventually become the state song.

Benson’s vision for Alaska would come to pass thirty-two years later, when Alaska achieved statehood in 1959. He received a standing ovation at the Alaska Constitutional Convention, an occasion he would later recount as the biggest thrill of his life.

Perhaps the most widely honored Alaska Native, like the flag he designed; Benson was a strong, simple Alaskan who continues to inspire others even today. A memorial in Seward commemorates Benson’s life and his living legacy – the Alaska flag.

On this and every Alaska Flag Day, Alaska Children’s Services hosts a community picnic to celebrate the flag and its designer. To learn more about the story of the Alaska Flag, visit Eight Stars of Gold. Read the official proclamation by Governor Sean Parnell, recognizing Alaska Flag Day 2012.

Eight stars of gold, on a field of blue. Alaska’s flag, may it mean to you. What will you do on this Alaska Flag Day to express your pride and hopes for Alaska?

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