It's time for us to become the West Virginia that Gov. Jim Justice talked about during his campaign.
A place of beauty. A place of hospitality. A place of hope. A place that produces leaders for the future. A place that is West Virginia.
This future is directly in front of us.
Or not. We have a choice.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called "Blink" that describes the critical components to making our impressions of people, places and events.
We do this in the blink of an eye.
When I look at West Virginia, I see unlimited potential. I also see scarcity as our mindset.
I see the beauty of nature as a backdrop to the ravages of communities without jobs and hope. I see beautiful mountains and homes falling apart.
I see honest people. I see the most deaths from overdose and drug addiction in this country. I see good neighbors that lives in communities losing people every day.
I see a great future and a hard past.
If we choose this future. We can.
In New York City, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani saw a beautiful city plagued by crime. He and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton decided on an unconventional approach, the broken windows approach.
Instead of only worrying about rape and murders, they decided to return pride and control to the communities by fixing the broken windows, painting over the graffiti-covered walls, getting rid of the squeegee guys on the street, and stopping people from jumping the turnstiles at the subway.
Our state has a lot of broken windows, houses falling apart, littered parks and dark streets.
An investment in fixing the broken windows is an investment in hope.
Princeton University professors Anne Case and Angus Deaton recently studied the alarming increase in mortality among America's less educated middle-aged whites. They found that the underlying reason for many deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide is from despair and hopelessness.
An investment in hope and education is an investment in health.
Dan Buettner investigated areas of the world where people live long and well. He called these the Blue Zones.
People living in these five areas were often poor, lived intergenerationally, and deeply appreciated and were grateful for their life. Purpose in their lives was so important that Beuttner found a name for it in Okinawa- ikigai (the reason for being).
An investment in jobs is an investment in purpose and health.
Gordon Gee pointed out in his state of the University address that since 2008, 11.8 million jobs have been created in America. Of almost 12 million jobs, all but 80,000 jobs required a college education.
An investment in education is an investment in prosperity, purpose and jobs.
We want to be a tourist destination, but we have roads that are falling apart. Bridges all over our state are aging and in need of repair. Only 57 percent of West Virginia residents have access to high speed broadband internet. Lack of connectivity is counted as a social determinant of health. Being connected is also required for education and jobs.
An investment in our infrastructure in an investment in our health, education and prosperity.
It is clear that it is our time to rise.
To do this, we need to invest in ourselves. That means we don't just look year-to-year for the next budget cuts or fixes.
It is our time to be smart about our future.
If we don't believe in ourselves enough to create enough resources to help our citizens rise from their current circumstance and see a bright new day, others won't either.
Time to rewrite our story, embrace our past, but not be limited by our historically scarcity mindset.
Time to move and invest in our future now.