Thoughtful West Virginians recognize we as a state and as residents of it face severe trials during the next several years. President Barack Obama's war on coal threatens our livelihoods and our state's budget. Costly federal mandates and the potential for a drop in revenue from legalized gambling are on the horizon. And we must do something to improve our schools.
But today, as we celebrate our state's 149th birthday, is a good time to reflect that some things never change. We're accustomed to struggles here in West Virginia.
Because things turned out well for us as a state during the Civil War, it is easy to forget that was not a foregone conclusion. When western Virginia leaders began meeting here in Wheeling to discuss formation of a new state, they knew they were taking a big chance.
At that time, the fortunes of war were heavily in favor of the Confederacy and the very state from which separation was planned. Wise leaders recognized the Union probably would prevail, but victory was not inevitable. It was only during the two weeks after West Virginia became a state on June 20, 1863 that Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg made it appear to many in the North that the tide had turned.
With our statehood assured, Mountain State residents found themselves coping with both the promise and the peril of a rapidly industrializing nation. Timber, coal, petroleum, natural gas and raw materials for glass and chemicals provided many jobs - and, too often, many pitfalls. We struggle to overcome some of them yet.
In some ways our own Ohio Valley has been a microcosm of global change, as smokestack industries are shoved aside by the electronic age.
So while West Virginians have enjoyed good times, we have learned to be prepared for the bad, too. We understand the hardy mountaineers who are our model and were our ancestors had to worry more about cutting paths through the laurels than resting among them.
So while challenging times appear to lie ahead, our attitude is that it is a time to stiffen our backs, not bow our heads in defeat.
Far from bemoaning our fate as West Virginians, we celebrate our state's birthday and thank God we live here - and can raise children and grandchildren in a place that really is almost heaven.
Happy West Virginia Day!