I was recently asked to sum up my aspirations for the New Year in a single word. For me, the word is hope.
If I could give everyone a single gift, it would be hope, because it is the spawning ground of all worthy achievement and the source of light on our trail ahead. It is the primary source of human energy, and to be without it is worse than death.
I'm not referring to the trail our country has been on for the past six years - years of corporate self-indulgence at the expense of environmental investment. The achievements I speak of have nothing to do with drilling more oil wells or erecting taller buildings to further pad the wallets of the super-rich.
I'm talking about the hopes and achievements of everyday people hungry to find their place in the natural world that sustains us all, physically and spiritually. I'm talking about such things as the revitalization of Timber-Fish-Wildlife, a win-win agreement that emerged from the cooperative spirit of the mid-1980s and resulted in outstanding progress in forest management through the years.
This cooperative, government-to-government spirit gave rise to many great achievements, ranging from tribal/state salmon management plans to the Centennial Accord of 1989, which provided a framework for comprehensive state/tribal cooperation in Washington state.
The recent elections and the rise of good leaders have opened doors that had been slammed in our faces in recent years. Projects such as the Puget Sound Partnership and the effort to restore the oceans are beginning to take shape, and providing opportunities to make a real difference.
Hope is the brother of faith and enduring commitment. It is the foundation of love, humanitarianism and positive self-esteem. It is the ember that helps us hold our heads up high in the darkest of times, and the engine that needs to roar like a warrior spirit in times of great potential.
I believe this is such a time.
We can leave a worthy legacy to our future generations after all. We can help provide our descendants with clean air and pure water, healthy forests and vibrant wildlife. Frankly, the best of us have had moments of doubt when confronted by mammoth challenges, such as overpopulation and global warming.
But I urge you, whoever you are, to focus your energies on objectives we can, together, now achieve. The time is right for people from all walks of life to take an active role in restoring and protecting their watersheds, and to speak up in Olympia, Wash., and Washington D.C. Stand up and be counted - now, because the time of opportunity is here.
The greatest thing about hope is that the more of it we feel, and demonstrate, the more contagious it is. That's why it's particularly important to kindle it in our young people. Nothing is more inspiring than the gleam of anticipation and courage in the eyes of our children, wherever they live. Encourage them to develop their hopes and dreams on the foundation of a healthy Mother Earth. Nothing could be more important.
Billy Frank Jr., Nisqually, is chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and recipient of the Indian Country Today 2004 American Indian Visionary Award.