By West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin
Just this week, I had the opportunity to see into West Virginia’s future. And I was impressed.
Every year, the West Virginia Education Association sponsors “Know Your State Government Day,” which gives high school students from across the state an opportunity to come to the state capitol in the midst of the regular legislative session. They meet legislators, visit the chambers of both houses, learn about committees and the lawmaking process, and see firsthand their elected officials at work.
The best part of the day, for me, though, is a session during which the state’s top officials from all three branches of state government get to briefly address the students. I was privileged to join President of the Senate Earl Ray Tomblin, Speaker of the House Richard Thompson and Supreme Court Chief Justice Elliott Maynard, to describe our day-to-day responsibilities, and take questions from the young audience.
This year I was especially impressed with the students’ attentiveness and their thoughtful questions that I could tell were spawned from listening to each of the speakers. In fact, there were so many students asking good, tough questions, I was sorry I couldn’t spend the rest of the day with them to gather their thoughts about West Virginia’s future. Unfortunately, time ran out and I had to leave before we could finish.
Many of their questions were about my proposed changes to the PROMISE scholarship program and what we could do to keep young people in West Virginia. They asked about how we can work to create jobs for them in their home state once they complete college. And they weren’t afraid to press us for information. None of us had all the answers, but we did generate a constructive dialogue with all those students, whom I think are a good cross-section of West Virginia. They were from different regions, different size cities and schools and different cultural backgrounds. But they all were thinking about their future and were eager to listen to what we had to say.
Sometimes I don’t think we give our youth enough credit. We’re often critical and like to compare them to the youth of our own generation. That’s not always fair, as times have changed and situations for young people today are different than they used to be. I think it does us good to listen to them and find out what they think can be done to make West Virginia better.
I left the Cultural Center with a very positive feeling about those kids in the audience. I saw our future in that room, and it is very bright. I look forward to the next opportunity I have to sit down and chat with the young people of West Virginia.
The above content reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the policies of the National Governors Association.