Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
What struck me most about former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner's keynote address last night is how his themes have hardly changed one iota since his 2001 campaign for governor. For example, here's the section about Lebanon, Virginia from his speech:
Let me tell you about a place called Lebanon--Lebanon, Virginia. Lebanon is in the coalfields of southwest Virginia, and everyone in that whole town could fit right here on the convention floor. Lebanon is like many small towns in America. It has seen the industries that sustained it downsized, outsourced, or shut down. Now, some folks look at towns like Lebanon and say, "Tough luck. In the global economy, you've lost."
But we believed that we shouldn't--and couldn't--give up on our small towns and expect the rest of the state to prosper. And that's what brought me, towards the end of my term, to the high school gym in Lebanon to announce that we were going to bring over 300 high-tech jobs, jobs that paid twice the county average.
One student told a reporter from The Washington Post that before this, he always thought he'd have to move away to get a good job and raise a family. I just heard from this young man, Michael Kisor. Today, he is a junior at Virginia Tech. His older brother just moved back home to Lebanon because there was an information-technology job open for him, that was just too good to pass up.
That's a story worth rewriting all across America. With the right leadership, we can once again achieve a standard of living that is improved--and not diminished--in each generation. We can once again make America a beacon for science and technology and discovery.
Now look at a lyric from his 2001 campaign song, "The Ballad of Mark Warner" by the Bluegrass Brothers:
Mark Warner is a good 'ol boy
From up in NoVA-ville.
He understands our people
The folks up in the hills.
He first came to the mountains
Many years ago.
His interest in our future
Then began to grow.
Warner - for public education
Warner - What a reputation
Warner - vote in this election
To keep our children home
To a Northern Virginian such as myself, the "keep our children home" line always sounded strange. I know I've talked to other suburbanites who didn't get it. Is he calling for home schooling or something?
But, when he tells the story about Lebanon, even those of us who aren't "folks up in the hills" can understand what he's talking about: In a new economy, it's important that rural places don't get left behind.
You can listen to the "Ballad of Mark Warner" below, but I must warn you first. If you do, it will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day and, quite possibly, the rest of your life.
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