Op-ed: Thankful for the opportunity and pleased with the progress
At the conclusion of my term in elective office, I pause to express my heartfelt appreciation to the citizens of West Virginia for the opportunity to serve our state.
The historic honor of serving as first Republican Majority Leader, and to be unanimously elected as the first two-term Republican Senate President in 88 years, is a cherished experience for which I will be eternally grateful. The privilege of leading a “new majority” Senate during some of the most eventful and momentous times in our history has been an incredible blessing. During these years, our state faced obstacles that previous leaders only imagined. Working together, we surmounted the difficulties, stayed the course, and won great victories for the people of West Virginia. It’s been said that the true test of leadership is how well one functions in crisis. Ernest Hemingway defined it as “Grace under pressure.” Our state can be proud that we were tested by fire, passed with flying colors, and emerged to the reward of a better West Virginia.
I am confident that future generations will say of our young Republican majority that, in our moment to lead, we did all that could be done to advance West Virginia. We spared no effort and left no stone unturned. Without regard to special interest groups and at risk to our personal careers, we quickly and consistently tackled tough issues and placed West Virginia on a course of progress and prosperity. Indeed, in the last six years, the Senate has played a leading role in the “pre-pandemic” resurgence of the economic and societal condition of our state. The Senate helped provide the thought leadership and political courage to enable West Virginia to break the status-quo and enter a new dimension of growth, freedom, and personal liberty. I dare say that no six-year period in the history of West Virginia has produced such foundational and transformational improvements.
Working with all citizens, we recognized what needed to be done, and we did it – from improving public education, to fixing our judicial system, empowering working families, protecting life and liberty, slashing red tape and regulatory burdens, enhancing infrastructure, and ushering in a host of other good-government initiatives. Wherever we saw a need, we spared no effort to address it.
The list of accomplishments is unprecedented in scope and substance. I am blessed to have played a role in making the necessary changes for our citizens. We tackled the moral and economic challenges of our time. In my Senate office, I placed a portrait of Anne Frank inscribed with the words; “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” I am so pleased that we did not wait! We acted quickly and boldly to improve our world.
While not re-elected to the Senate, I genuinely and enthusiastically congratulate the winners. Now, as a private citizen, I join my fellow West Virginians in praying for our continued progress and success. Our state is in good and capable hands, and I will rest easy knowing there is no better group of people to steer the ship of state. I am confident that West Virginia will soar to even greater heights and secure more victories for our citizens. It is gratifying to note that West Virginia voters, in overwhelming numbers, validated our agenda by electing more legislators who are committed to progress and necessary reforms. As such, the cause lives on and the progress continues.
Some have opined that my personal election was lost because I stood up to teacher union bosses and labor leaders, and that I lost votes due to my support of fairness for all citizens. If these positions cost me an election, so be it. While compromise is always necessary, no one should be bullied to take a position that is against one’s principals. I am proud to have fought on behalf of students and parents, and I would do it again. We have no higher calling than to provide a world-class education and superior schools to our children. Yes, it’s true that I fought for jobs and opportunities by supporting Right-to-Work laws that gives workers the freedom to choose to join a union. Why should anyone be forced into a union just to keep their job? Yes, I support the principal of non-discrimination and fairness for all citizens. I believe this position will prove to be on the right side of history.
In our wonderful American democracy it is important for all citizens to put common good above partisan or personal differences. Our society needs more kindness, truth, helpfulness, and respect. My Christian faith teaches the golden rule “do unto others” and to love everyone. We can disagree, without being disrespectful. In his 2nd Inaugural address, Lincoln expressed it perfectly, “We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
At the conclusion of one’s term in office, what more can anyone ask but that one’s time in service will have made a profound and lasting impact toward improving the lives of people we serve and society as whole? I firmly believe this goal has been achieved. These last six years have made a positive and lasting difference. My heart is full of hope and assurance that people of good will can resolve any issues that confront us. I thank you for allowing me to serve. I thank you for the many everlasting friendships. I pray God will continue to bless the great state of West Virginia.