Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin recalled how he became inspired to run for public office while he was a young lad sitting in the audience at Mountaineer Boys State many years ago.
"Fortunately, I was elected, and I've been in office ever since," he told the more than 300 rising seniors Wednesday evening. "I would encourage you to always be involved and help out your fellow man. Leadership and citizenship means getting involved, and this is one of the ways you can learn to do that."
Tomblin praised the group for having already been seen as future leaders in their respective high schools, and he said being a leader does not necessarily mean seeking public office. He said they could become Boy Scout leaders, youth sports coaches or just community activists who work to make their neighborhoods and towns better places to live.
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin urges those attending Mountaineer Boys State to become leaders who get others around them involved. Tomblin was the speaker at Wednesday’s dinner session.
"I know you will always be leaders in some capacity," the governor said. "You will be leaders who get others involved."
Tomblin said when he was in those same chairs, you could support your family with a job which required only a high school education. He said those jobs are practically gone, and he urged the boys to "never stop learning.
"In today's world, you have to have an education beyond high school," he said.
He said no student should be able to use a lack of money as an excuse. He said the PROMISE Scholarship, along with other needs-based scholarships, are available. He said there is college tuition money for those who join the National Guard.
"We are putting in over $100 million for educational scholarships, and that doesn't count the private money," Tomblin said.
It's that education, he said, that will bring not only the nation back to the top of the heap, but the state, as well.
"We've slipped a little bit, but we have the ability to lead again," Tomblin said. "We need the bright young minds that are in this room to stay in the state of West Virginia."