155 years and 60 days ago to this date, Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation giving birth to what Owen Schmitt would later dub “the greatest state in the Nation.” And today’s her birthday. While wholeheartedly agreeing with Schmitt’s sentiments, I remain intrigued, astonished, and amazed, on a daily basis, by the attributes of West Virginians that make her the greatest state in the nation.
Owen Schmitt is not the first, and most certainly won’t be the last, to recognize the grit, determination, passion, and grace that make up West Virginians. Perhaps most recently is the late Anthony Bourdain’s observations of West Virginians’ sense of pride and ability to stand face to face with our State’s daunting challenges. Recognizing the astounding differences between most West Virginia inhabitants’ political, religious, and cultural views and his own, Bourdain nonetheless attested to West Virginians’ kindness and hospitality, while recognizing our devotion and fierce determination to maintain the culture of our great State.
A New York Times Bestselling Author and West Virginia native, Homer Hickam, also recognizes the unique attributes that make us West Virginians. During the first full week in June, the West Virginia Association for Justice held its 60th Annual Convention. Mr. Hickam appeared at the convention to discuss, among others, his book “We Are Not Afraid” and connected the essence of the book to the civil justice system in West Virginia. As part of Homer’s comments, he observed the nature of West Virginians to fight for our beliefs and face our challenges without fear or reservation.
Homer is right: the West Virginia culture has significant application in our civil justice system, as West Virginians expect the same grit, determination, and compassion when fighting a legal battle and dealing with the most traumatic event of their lives. It is the drive and attitude of West Virginians, clients and attorneys alike, that motivate and move my practice forward.
Wherever you may be in West Virginia, and regardless of your purpose in being there, open your eyes; it’s not hard to see what makes West Virginia the greatest state in the nation.