One hundred forty-nine years ago today, West Virginia became the nation's 35th state. Often since then it has seemed as if one of our primary functions within the Union is to provide a recognizable (to some, at least) region on which other Americans could look down.
Yet today, as we have for many years, we West Virginians will celebrate statehood. We know our critics - at best, misinformed and at worst, prejudiced - are wrong.
Our forested hollows, windswept mountaintops and majestic river valleys are inhabited by a people as diverse, rugged, hard-working and independent-minded as any in the country. Here, fairness and compassion - we call it "neighborliness" - are ways of life.
Of course, we Mountain State residents have made mistakes during the past century and a half. We have paid dearly for some.
And of course, not everyone who resides here lives up to our own self-image as West Virginians.
But we have done great things, too. We have served as the nation's powerhouse for generations. We have sacrificed far more than our share in sending our sons and daughters off to defend the United States. We have been leaders in many ways in racial and religious tolerance. We are determined to preserve our wild places, to the point we are one of the East Coast's most beloved playgrounds. And during recent years we have shown, both as West Virginia families and as a state government, that we know how to be responsible with money.
Severe challenges face us during the next several years. It is impossible to say how we will face them. Perhaps more mistakes lie ahead. Or, we may give our fellow Americans even more lessons in how to cope with adversity.
Whatever our struggles and regardless of our differences, our lives here have taught us ours is a state worth celebrating and defending - quite simply because we live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, among some of the most wonderful people we know.
We are West Virginians - and that's enough.