We must move forward

Another list, another abysmal ranking. This time, West Virginia has landed in 47th place on the list of “Best States,” using data by McKinsey and Company that covered 75 different metrics, for U.S. News and World Report.

Here’s a sampling of what was found: The Mountain State is 44th in healthcare, 45th in education, 49th in economy, 50th in infrastructure, 33rd in crime and corrections, 36th in fiscal stability, 44th in quality of life, but … get this, 23rd in opportunity.

For those accustomed to shrugging shoulders and accepting such reports as simply the way it is and carrying on with their day, here is the part where we say “At least we’re not New Mexico, Mississippi or Louisiana.”

But that’s not good enough. Not anymore. Not for anyone who has been paying attention lately. According to the report, the best state in the country to live is Iowa. Iowa, for crying out loud!

Let’s look at that opportunity ranking. The folks at McKinsey and Co. think West Virginians have it better than more than half of other states when it comes to citizens having “tools to succeed.” Well, sure we do. We live in a ridiculously resource-rich state filled with smart, hard-workers who have access to good public education and outstanding post-secondary opportunities. We live in a place so wild and wonderful that folks from all over the world come to visit, and fall in love.

So what is holding us back? What is driving us so far down the rankings in all those other categories?

And don’t tell me, here in the state where so many are fond of talking about personal accountability and responsibility, that it is someone else’s fault. Sure there is room to blame outside big corporations, the federal government, and Mother Nature. Take a look at how well that approach has worked for us for the past century or so.

Why are so many content to maintain– or even stubbornly intent upon maintaining– the status quo? Why are so many intentionally facing backward, rather than forward? The time for change is now, and it won’t be accomplished by back-slapping good ole boy politicians and appointed officials who are much happier to talk out of one side of their mouths about doing what is best to move West Virginia forward, while making assurances out of the other side that they will keep our disgustingly bloated bureaucracy and their own positions of power safe — maybe even grow them and make them more entrenched. Oh, and did I mention more opaque?

You know what else? It won’t be accomplished by a citizenry waiting for someone else to make the first move, waiting for it to be someone else’s problem. That’s how those other guys get their power and influence. They tell you not to worry, they’ll take care of everything. They make promises they never intend to keep and somehow, it rarely comes back to bite them.

Demand better. Do better. I’m not saying run for office. My goodness, the transformation that takes place on the day a politician is elected and believes he or she is safe in a position of relative power is still a mystery to me. But I am saying vote — thoughtfully; pay no attention to the letter after the name.

Start by asking yourself what YOU can do — and I promise the answer is more than you think.

Tell the politicians you want transparency — you want to know how YOUR money is being spent. Remind them who they work for.

But be willing to do some work, yourself. Be willing to let go of “the way things used to be,” and start working on a much brighter version of “the way things could be.” Be open-minded, venture out of your comfort zones, and listen to each other. And then roll up your sleeves.

You’re Mountaineers, for goodness sake (yes, even you Marshall grads). You can do this, if you decide to.

Don’t let all that opportunity be wasted.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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