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Lisa Murkowski: AN ADVOCATE FOR ALASKA by Bobbie Hasselbring

Lisa Murkowski JD’85 is one of only 14 women in the U.S. Senate, arguably the most powerful lawmaking body in the world. As the most junior senator from Alaska steels herself for what promises to be a hotly contested re-election campaign, she is confident she has earned the right – what she calls the privilege – to be returned to represent her beloved state.

B

orn in Ketchikan when her father served in the Coast Guard, she lived in Wrangell and Juneau and then later moved to Anchorage.

She learned early on to love Alaska’s abundant opportunities. “I take pleasure in telling tales to people in the Lower 48 about the midnight sun, the dark winter days and our bird-sized mosquitoes – always with a certain amount of embellishment,” she says. “But it really isn’t amazing that we live here – it’s easy to live here because we love it. “ She completed two years of her undergraduate degree at Willamette University, but her father’s work necessitated a move back East. After graduating in 1980 with a BA in economics from Georgetown University, Murkowski helped her father successfully run for the U.S. Senate. When she returned to the state capital in Juneau to work as a staffer for an Alaskan legislator, she found a flaw in the system that would change her path. “Lawmakers were enacting laws, but they had no idea if they were constitutional,” she said. “It made me want to go to law school to learn about law and understand the Constitution.” Two years later, she entered Willamette University College of Law “because I knew the college had a great reputation. It was close to the water and the mountains and close enough to a city yet far enough away that I could focus on my studies.”


Willamette Lawyer | Fall 2004 • Vol. IV, No. 2