by John G. Miller
The past few years the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce has provided its members with the chance to hear several dynamic speakers at its annual dinner.
A few years back, Sen. Robert C. Byrd mesmerized the crowd with a delightful speech full of practical discussion, with a flash of Greek mythology and history tossed in.
Last year, Dominion CEO Thomas A. Capps delivered good news in the form of his company's investment plans in the state. His presentation helped to put to rest concerns that the company that bought Consolidated Natural Gas was considering leaving.
And Friday night, Sen. Jay Rockefeller didn't disappoint, providing an inspirational talk on the area's economic virtues, challenging members to take a risk to help entrepreneurs.
Before the cynics start dialing my phone, let me acknowledge, that yes, I know each of the speakers are highly skilled orators. Corporate CEOs and politicians don't get where they're at without knowing how to work a crowd.
But with each, came a ray of hope. And at the end of a long, hard work week, nothing was more needed.
As with other speakers, Rockefeller wove his own personal experiences into accounts of the state's struggles to achieve economic diversity, blending the old economy of coal, chemicals, steel and manufacturing with the new economy of information and aerospace technology.
In quoting Ben Franklin, who said, "Energy and persistence conquer all things," Rockefeller urged those present to exemplify those traits.
While acknowledging that businessmen needed to be concerned about the bottom line, he said people needed to be willing to look beyond this quarter, this year or this business cycle to work hard at projects that may not bear fruit for a decade.
He also stressed the need to continue improvements to the education system and the state's profile. He said too often state residents think that others think poorly of us, but that isn't the case.
"Too often, they just don't think of us," Rockefeller said.
Whether those present agreed with Rockefeller politically, their respect for him was shown by two standing ovations -- one when he was introduced, the other when he finished.
Common courtesy? Perhaps.
But there was a feeling that those present bought into Rockefeller's prose, that they, too, have a similar vision for a stronger West Virginia.
Regardless of the path, the goal was the same. Sometimes we can't lose sight of that and let the little things stand in our way.
John G. Miller is managing editor of the Clarksburg Exponent and Telegram newspapers. He can be reached at 626-1473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.