Working Toward A Bright Future

One of the biggest days in Wheeling’s year-long observance of the 250th anniversary of our founding as a community is today. At 1 p.m., a celebratory parade will take place downtown. Prior to that, city dignitaries will visit Walnut Grove Cemetery in Martins Ferry, to place wreaths on the graves of members of the Zane family, who first settled here.

Outside observers not familiar with the people who live and work in our area might well ask, “What’s to celebrate? After all, didn’t you people just lose one of your two hospitals?”

Yes, we did. That is not the first daunting challenge Wheeling residents have faced — and will overcome — however. It will not be the last.

Our motto for the Wheeling 250 celebration is appropriate: “Bright future — treasured past.”

We treasure our past not just because of Wheeling’s glory days as a gateway to the West for pioneers, that is was the place where courageous leaders founded the state of West Virginia, and because of our role as an industrial center building the nation and helping to defend it. We treasure our past also because it was full of lessons for our future.

Our pride in having been leaders in the statehood movement is tempered by the knowledge that just a few years before it began, Men, women and children were sold as slaves here. We recall with sadness that many local men gave their lives in the conflict that brought an end to that horrific, inhumane practice.

Our heritage, then, is a mixed one. But, like so many of our fellow Americans, we look back upon our ancestors and see men and women who were determined to do better. We see people who risked their lives just to make homes where we walk every day. We see others who worked harder than most of us can imagine to lay the foundation for their children to have better lives.

We see others who went out of their way to do good things for their neighbors — for their community. We see a determination to overcome adversity.

Is that attitude maudlin? Some would say so. They would be wrong, because we do not focus on the “good old days” but on our past as it really was.

That treasured heritage gives us confidence in a bright future for our city and our wider Ohio Valley community. If our ancestors could overcome all that they did, surely we can cope with a few comparatively minor obstacles.

Accomplishing that will not be easy, but we can do it if we borrow from the qualities demonstrated by the people we celebrate today. They were determined to have bright futures.

So are we.

Happy 250, Wheeling.

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