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WEST VIRGINIA DAY EDITORIAL: Mountaineers must always look forward

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel editorial

She has been “Open for Business,” she has been “Almost Heaven,” and today, she is “Wild and Wonderful,” according to the signs posted at her borders. But one thing that has not changed for 154 years in West Virginia is “Montani Semper Liberi” — Mountaineers are always free.

Of course, another constant has been coal. Even before the formation of the state there were 25 independent coal companies in western Virginia, producing less than half-a-million tons. At its peak, in 1997 the Mountain State coal industry was producing 180 million tons a year.

That was a generation ago. And though our state was given no time to transition from its dependence on coal, the industry has been forever reduced to a shadow of its former self. Meanwhile, for too many, “no changes can be noticed in those West Virginia hills,” as the song says. Nothing has replaced the giant that once fueled — and ruled — our economy. So, the best and brightest who should be helping us find our way are, instead roaming “o’er sea o’er land,” and thinking of happy home while they seek their fortunes elsewhere.

Let us, on this West Virginia Day, then resolve as proud Mountaineers to do two things: turn our focus toward bringing new ideas, new businesses, new industries to every part of our state; and bringing our young people back to “stand once more with loved ones on those West Virginia hills” while we also seek out new friends to live among the hills.

Though that same state song reflects the rut in which we have been stuck (“Many are our visions bright, Which the future ne’er fulfills”), we are a proud, strong, innovative and resilient people who can make happen anything to which we set our collective minds. We can turn those bright visions and sunny daydreams into reality. We can be free, once the bureaucrats and politicians get out of the way, to pull this great state back to its full potential if we only decide to be. All of us.

Happy West Virginia Day, ladies and gentlemen. Let us celebrate this wild and wonderful piece of almost Heaven in which we are blessed to live by throwing off the weight of the way it has always been, and look forward — MOVE forward — to all she can become.

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