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My thoughts this weekend rested on time spent living and writing in Randolph County, Indiana and our neighbors in Union City, Indiana.

Among many things I like about the area is its strong Quaker mystique. I recall being so surprised to learn that Quaker men and women came to America’s shores in Massachusetts seeking religious freedom but were abused and driven out by a rival sect who burned their books and abused them, ultimately scattering them across the country like seeds in the wind.

As editor of a community newspaper in Alaska, I with my staff focus on local and community news. Like many community papers, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner struggles to shore up its finances. The challenge is to convince non-subscribers that the news they get about local government, their schools, their elected officials, their local sports teams and more is worth the price of an issue each day. Otherwise, what passes for news on many blogs and social media posts too often is a mix of fractured facts, gossip, innuendo and propaganda. In addition to reporting the facts, reporters ask the hard questions that shine the proverbial light on community issues, problems and yes, heroic accomplishments.

The highlight of our weekend was a community International Friendship Day in Fairbanks. This was the 37th annual event in its present form, but other less sophisticated friendship day celebrations occurred in the Sixties and Seventies. Under President Jimmy Carter, the idea of communities forming attachments and exchanges of agreements with “sister cities” far away was conceived.

Fairbanks is a sister city to cities in Russia, Mongolia, India, Japan, Italy and Taiwan. I recall that Richmond allied with Dalto Town (now Unnan City), the relationship fostered by Earlham’s strong interest in more rural Japanese culture.

I couldn’t help recognizing the beauty and irony of last Saturday’s display of friendship that brought uncounted thousands to a community center in a prominent Fairbanks park for camaraderie, food booths and more than 35 displays of national costumes and head dressings, dances, university orchestra concertos, martial arts exhibitions and more. While the world’s peace disintegrated in Gaza and Ukraine, in Fairbanks there were rousing cheers for our citizens born in Russia, Israel and Iran.

A major part of the day was a celebration of high school students spending a semester in Fairbanks. They hailed from Slovakia, Czech Republic, Brazil and Mexico. The moderator introducing each act and event originally hailed from China.

All this, of course, was community news and amply covered by one of our paper’s community editor. Elsewhere in the nation, especially on our college campuses, the tragedies unfolding in Israel and Gaza have polarized many people, and the flames of hate against opposing nations are fanned higher and higher due to pernicious comments in blogs and social media posts. For me, in faraway Alaska, once attacked by the Japanese on American territorial soil in World War II, I can only hope that the calmer voices of our community will remind one and all that while the  culture of our nation of immigrants is precious, it is important that when times internationally are toughest, we Americans must stay united as one people.


Hank Nuwer, a former Randolph County resident, is managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Fairbanks, Alaska. He has also taught journalism during his career, including for Ball State University and Franklin College in Indiana.

First published in the Winchester (Indiana) News Gazette; October 26, 2023: Link: