JACKSON COUNTY - U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) visited Jackson County on Thursday meeting with residents and Ripley High School students for a “Coffee & Common Sense” forum at the Downtowner in Ripley and challenging students at Ravenswood High School in the afternoon.
Manchin told the jam-packed crowd at the Downtowner that both West Virginia and the US face a dilemma with a lack of infrastructure including safe drinking water and sanitation.
He noted that water crisis in the Charleston area as an issue that “fell through the cracks and disrupted 300,000 lives.”
“It is a wake up call of America,” said Manchin. He added that he is supporting legislation in Congress that would require everything stored above ground to be inspected. He said a total commitment in Washington should be to focus on infrastructure.
Manchin also noted the need for jobs, touching on the continued curtailment of Century Aluminum locally and the corporation’s continued posturing about utitlity subsidies and metal prices as requirements for re-opening the Ravenswood smelting facility.
“We cannot be the policemen of the world,” Manchin said. “We’ve spent $1.5 trillion in two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq) and it has changed nothing there. We need to get out of Afghanistan now and rebuild America.”
Manchin also touched on income disparity. He called for bi-partisanship, saying there is no reason why we cannot cooperate politically to fix problems. “I want to be a good Democrat, but I want to be a good American,” he said.
Manchin also called for no discrimination in the workplace. “We need to get off social issues and fix our problems.”
Manchin stressed that the government “must get its financial house in order or everything else is for naught.”
He also challenged Ripley High School students in attendance to strive to be the best they can be. “The Asian rim is coming after us,” he said. “They want what we have. We must re-invent ourselves and the American Dream.”
In his visit to Ravenswood High School where he was introduced by good friend Coach Mick Price, Manchin told a gathering of top students in the school library that they “are facing so many challenges but with unlimited opportunities.”
“The Asian Rim is coming after you hard,” Manchin said. “They want what you have. They go to school longer (220 days a year) and attend longer school days. They say they wish they could think like Americans because they haven’t been trained to have the creative freedoms you have. We’re the envy of the world, but we’re not Number One anymore. The Asians are leapfrogging us by skipping a generation through innovation.
Page 2 of 2 - “You must raise the bar and never get bogged down. Most students think they must leave the state to get a good job and that’s a problem we need to address in West Virginia.
You must push yourselves to do better. How far are you pushing yourself? How good do you want to be? Everyone in the world wants to be where you are today. To err is human. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake by trying to do something. You’re the only one who can push yourself to where toy want to be.”
Manchin answered questions from the students, touching on coal’s future, the new cracker plant, education incentives for the best teachers, the might of our military and the need for us to be vigilant and educated in the face of the terror threat that will continue.
Manchin challenged the students to three keys to success: producing a good produce, making that product valuable and making it serviceable.
“You’re the product,” Manchin said. “How good are you and can you get better? Don’t price yourself out of the market? Do I have to kick-start you every day or are you a step ahead? It’s not rocket science. You can make the difference against more forces that are pushing you back than pushing you forward. It’s up to each of you.”