HONOLULU (JTA) – If there was any doubt that Sen. John McCain will shake up Washington and institute real change, the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican vice-presidential nominee has put that question to rest. Few people can match McCain’s maverick spirit and bipartisan nature like Governor Palin.
I’ve known Sarah Palin since her election as governor in 2006. I am confident she will be a great friend of the Jewish community and Israel, as well as a terrific leader and great vice president.
It is not surprising that her historic nomination has brought enthusiasm and excitement to the nation.
In my speech at the Republican National Convention last week, I shared a few reasons for that excitement.
“As a fellow Republican governor, I have had the chance to get to know Gov. Sarah Palin,” I said in that speech. “She is a terrific individual and an outstanding governor. Sarah is a person with proven leadership skills and strong moral character.”
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives, wrote that he was “excited” by the choice.
“Sarah brings a wealth of experience to the campaign and will pose a formidable challenge to the Democratic nominees,” he said. “Sarah Palin is a smart woman who represents change.”
Governor Palin brings numerous strengths and qualities to the position of vice president. She has been a mayor, a governor and the head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. While serving in these positions, she has built a reputation as a leader willing to work across party lines to bring about real reform and to better the lives of her constituents.
Governor Palin has cut taxes and curtailed budgetary spending. Rooting out corruption and establishing ethics reform have been hallmarks of her career.
Governor Palin has also shown that she is not wedded to party politics, nor does she play politics as usual. She has said that the function of a politician is not to serve one’s self-interest but rather to serve with a “servant’s heart.”
Perhaps one of Governor Palin’s greatest assets is her firm grasp on one of our country’s greatest security issues – how to tackle our dependence on foreign oil and our growing need for energy independence. On this critical issue, she has a depth of experience and firsthand knowledge that will prove invaluable to a McCain-Palin administration.
As governor, she challenged the influence of big oil companies and fought for the development of new energy resources in her state. And as an outdoorswoman and naturalist, she understands and cares deeply about the impact of climate change.
Governor Palin has advocated that environmental issues be weighed against economic and social needs, and that meaningful discussion take place in order for policymakers to make the best decisions for our country.
During her tenure as commander-in-chief of Alaska’s National Guard, she made it a priority to visit the troops from her state deployed to Kuwait and Germany.
Finally on Iran – an issue that is critically important to readers of this publication – Governor Palin gets it. She recognizes the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons while advocating for strengthening the strategic U.S.-Israel relationship.
It is also clear that Governor Palin is a woman of deep personal faith. She has established a good relationship with the Jewish communities of Alaska, supported the residents’ desire to create the Alaska Jewish Historical Museum and was present at the reading of Alaska’s resolution commemorating Israel’s 60th anniversary.
In her office in Juneau, Governor Palin has hung an Israeli flag. She displays the flag because Israel is in her heart.
One of the finest qualities Governor Palin has demonstrated recently is her tremendous grace under fire. Since the announcement of her selection as our vice presidential nominee, she has faced an onslaught of rumor, smear and innuendo. Yet Governor Palin has remained strong and resolute. She has let the truth speak for itself.
Shortly after coming into office, Governor Palin asked her former pastor for examples of biblical people who were great leaders and what was the secret of their leadership. The pastor suggested she re-read the story of Queen Esther, the Jewish woman who rose to help her people and become queen of Persia.
Like Queen Esther, Governor Palin has faced tremendous adversity, and time and again she has risen to overcome obstacles. This is the sign of a true leader.
As Americans get to know Governor Palin, I think they will see all the wonderful things about her I have seen over the years. She will be a great friend and advocate for the issues important to us. For that she deserves our respect, friendship and, most importantly, our support.
(Linda Lingle, a Jewish Republican, currently serves as the governor of Hawaii.)