The Times West Virginian

Opinion

June 20, 2014

West Virginia’s rich culture and strong traditions continue to grow

It was back in 1996 that the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd said on the Senate floor that “West Virginia is where I want to be. The land where saffron shafts of sunlight pierce through the early morning mists in spring; where hymns from the religious song books speak louder than guns and the attendance at family reunions can still swell into the hundreds.

“It is a land of hardworking, honest, loyal, patriotic, God-fearing people who care about their communities and each other. ... As I so often like to boast, she has never lost her grasp on the ‘old values’ that continue to set her apart among the 50 states.”

It was in that same 1996 Senate floor speech on West Virginia’s 133rd birthday that Byrd made the point that “faith is what has kept us going when hope has been in short supply. But it is hope that shapes our vision of the future and drives us to achieve our dreams.”

These quotes by the esteemed senator are missed now that he has passed on. Even though most of us were aware that our state has some measurable flaws despite Byrd’s glowing comments, these thoughts about West Virginia made us feel good. And that is why most people do not get bothered by all the statistical data that says West Virginia is either last or next-to-last in almost every conceivable economic or sociological measurement, even though they probably should. When Byrd painted such a beautiful picture of the Mountain State, it made us all feel good.

Today, we celebrate the 151st anniversary of the day West Virginia officially became a state — the first and only state to be created by a presidential proclamation. Sen. Joe Manchin says that when Virginia seceded from the union, our forefathers remained loyal to the United States of America. We became the Restored State of Virginia, with Gov. Francis Pierpont leading us through until the official declaration of our own statehood.

Born out of the fiery battles of the Civil War, West Virginia was founded by patriots who were willing to risk their lives in a united pursuit of justice and freedom for all.

And since that day 151 years ago, on June 20, 1863 — when our state officially became the 35th state admitted into the Union — West Virginia’s rich culture and strong traditions grew.

Manchin describes West Virginia as a place of coal mines and soaring eagles, Boy Scouts and community leaders, sparkling lakes and captivating mountains, winding backcountry and smoky barbecue joints, battlefields and hidden trails, college towns and small towns.

Going back to Byrd’s speech, the hopes, visions and dreams are still alive on West Virginia’s 151st birthday.

West Virginia is a special place we call home.

Happy birthday, West Virginia!

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