West Virginia is hard to define, but its people are special - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

West Virginia is hard to define, but its people are special

Posted: Updated:

For 150 years old, West Virginia looks pretty good. Celebrations around the state will mark her Sesquicentennial — everything from concerts on the steps of the State Capitol to special screenings of West Virginia-themed films to seminars about our state's literary heritage. This is an exciting time and one we should celebrate with friends and family.

This also is a good time to ask what makes this place special. What is it that makes West Virginia different? Maps can't define us — we are North and South. Lewisburg typifies small-town southern charm, while Wheeling is a husky, brawny city with strong Rust Belt sensibilities; places are so very different, but, in many ways, very much the same. Geography's grip is just as tenuous. West Virginians are everywhere. We might live in New York or San Francisco or Charlotte or some other far-off locale, but we never stop calling West Virginia home.

Tyrants terrify our neighbors, yet we know we are always free and no one, no matter their rank or title, can deny us our birthright. Strong, independent, fierce and hardworking, West Virginians never back down from a challenge. Our forebearers overcame harsh, untamed conditions to settle a wilderness that either turned so many back or forced them to keep moving west. We were born of rebellion but created because we knew that sentiment of freedom so deeply ingrained in us and held so dear applied to everyone.

Tragedy and suffering have marked our existence, but those qualities have never defined us. Death lurked in every coal mine, every steel mill, every mountain ridge and every deep river, but we carried on, relying on faith and perseverance. Our resilience is strong because hard times had to be overcome.

We are unique for many reasons, but we are West Virginia because of our people. Some would say our greatest natural resource is coal or timber or gas, but what makes this state special are the men and women who live here. We are mountaineers, each and every one of us. That tradition of grit and determination did not stop with the modern era. Hard work is still our trademark. Although the challenges might be different, we press on. Giving up or giving in would be easier, but that passion for something more and something better has never waned. Even 150 years in, our struggle for a better tomorrow continues and we define ourselves and define this state by our willingness to always fight for a better West Virginia.