A good leader "listens more than he talks," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told a group of female high school students Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Tomblin arrived by helicopter at Wheeling Jesuit University, where he addressed about 400 girls attending Rhododendron Girls State this week. He spoke at Mountaineer Boys State later in the day.
Tomblin attended Boys State as a student in 1969 and said his experience there likely led him to seek public office less than five years later.
Photo by Joselyn King
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, center, is greeted Tuesday by Irene Weber, left, director of Rhododendron Girls State, and Girls State governor Kelcie Sturgeon of Morgantown. Girls State is in session this week on the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University.
"I saw Gov. Arch Moore arrive by helicopter" at Jackson's Mill in Lewis County, Tomblin said. "I was impressed. I shook his hand."
Tomblin won his first primary nomination to the West Virginia House of Delegates in May 1974 - the same week he graduated from West Virginia University.
Being selected to attend Boys State or Girls State is one of the greatest honors you can have as a high school student, Tomblin told Girls State citizens.
"If you're here, it means that you're a leader," he said. "You're a leader in your school and in your community. Someday, you're going to be the leaders of our state. Someday, one of you will probably have my job. ...
"If there is one thing you should know about leadership it is this: Leadership is not about getting your own way," he said. "It's about serving others."
Tomblin added he has "been blessed" to spend most of his life serving other people.
"If you are going to be a leader you have to ask yourself, 'What can I do to serve other people?'" he continued. "This has to be the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing when you go to bed at night.
"A good leader listens more than he or she talks," he continued. "That's a hard thing for some people to learn, but it's true. You can't serve the people you are leading unless you are listening, and listening carefully."
He spoke of his recent trip to Japan to encourage businesses there to expand operations in West Virginia. Tomblin said he listened to the Japanese business people and asked questions.
"Do you think it would work if I went to Japan and told Toyota they have to expand their plant here because I say so, because I'm governor?" he asked. "That would be foolish, wouldn't it? They would just laugh at me."
Tomblin told the girls elected to office at Girls State to keep this in mind as they are sworn into office.
"Don't get a big head, and don't stop thinking about what you can do to help the people around you," he said.