On this day in 1863, the great state of West Virginia was formally admitted into the Union. While Eduflack may consider himself a Jersey boy, it is hard to forget that I am also a proud graduate of West Virginia public schools (Jefferson County Consolidated High School in Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia, to be exact).
And while I left “By God” West Virginia for college, going across state lines to attend Mr. Jefferson’s University of Virginia, I went on to serve my adopted home of West Virginia. For years, I served as an aide to Senator Robert C. Byrd, a tremendous leader who shaped me in many ways. From the history of the Senate to the intricacies of the appropriations process to a thorough respect for the voters, Senator Byrd taught me the foundations that my professional life is built on today. He also inspired me to be the writer that I am today (spurred when he asked me to write him an hour-long speech linking the rhetoric of Aristotle and ancient Greece with the celebration of July 4th).
But I started my career in public service as a staffer to U.S. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the then “junior” senator from the Mountain State. Twenty five years ago this summer, to be exact. It was as an intern for Senator Rockefeller that I penned my first congressional floor statement, a statement that Rockefeller read on the Senate floor on June 19, 1992 to commemorate West Virginia’s 129th birthday. It seems appropriate to share that statement today, delivered far better by Senator Rockefeller than Eduflack’s still developing writing deserved.
Mr. President, today I rise to speak to you in honor of the people of the great State of West Virginia in recognition of our State’s 129th birthday.On the 20th of June in 1863, the State of West Virginia was born. The product of a crisis between the States, West Virginia earned its place as the 35th State to join the Union, through incredible bravery and initiative.This spirit of initiative has remained with our fair State since its inception. The proud people of West Virginia have consistently served this country through the good times and the bad. We have fought valiantly for our country, we have provided for our families through hardship and prosperity, and we have worked to establish the greatest community, State, and country that we possibly could.Mountaineer pride is evident still today, throughout the State. This pride has attracted hundreds of thousands of vacationers to our fair State. They have fallen in love with our majestic mountains ideal for skiing, our racing white water rivers, and our beautiful national parks. One only needs to open any local West Virginia newspaper to see the numerous letters written from vacationers commending the State on both its attractions and its people.THis feeling has led many people to continue to visit the Mountain State and has brought many more to relocate permanently in our fair State for good. Thanks to the hospitality and kindness of West Virginia’s native residents, our Mountain State quickly becomes home for her new citizens, and remains a place where pride and hard work thrive.So, on this, the 129th birthday of our State, I ask you, Mr. President, and my other colleagues, to join me in recognizing this important day for West Virginia, and for all her citizens who have made West Virginia a State that I am proud to represent and call home.