Manchin, Capito speak at Girls State

The Inter-Mountain photos by Brooke Hinzman Sen. Joe Manchin speaks at Rhododendron Girls State on Friday on the campus of Davis & Elkins College.

ELKINS — Both of West Virginia’s senators, Joe Manchin III and Shelley Moore Capito, spoke before attendees of Rhododendron Girls State at Davis & Elkins College on Friday morning.

“These girls are dynamite,” Capito said after speaking to the participants first thing Friday morning. “Loved spending my morning with these amazing young ladies. Good job, girls!”

Friday was the final day of the 77th session of the American Legion Auxiliary Rhododendron Girls State, which was hosted for the second year in a row on the campus of D&E.

Manchin, speaking to the students later in the morning, focused on education.

“We spend less time in the classroom than any developed nation,” said Manchin, D-W.Va., adding that the average civilized country sends children to school for 200 plus days per year, whereas, the U.S. requires around 180 days of instruction per year. Manchin then compared the idea of placing importance on education to practicing other activities.


“I can tell you one thing, no matter what you are — if you’re in any type of extracurricular, if you’re in the arts– the more time you spend practicing, the more time you prepare, the better you’ll be. It’s just simple,” he said.

Manchin went on to condemn the political division in America, emphasizing that citizens should rely on what unites them in order to improve the country.

“The world is a troubled place right now. We have a divided country, and the thing that concerns me more than anything is that the divide going on. You’re supposed to pick sides? You’re not supposed to pick sides. We have to find out what unites us, not what divides us,” Manchin said.

“Differences shouldn’t divide you. You can have a difference in your opinion. That shouldn’t divide you because basically the goal should be to fix whatever is broken. The goal should be to make West Virginia better, to make our country better.”

As an example, Manchin recounted a meeting he attended alongside the parliamentarians from all the Arctic nations, citing the difference in the way the United States handles climate issues compared to the other nations in attendance.

“Not one of those countries except the United States of America uses climate as a political divide and fights over it. You know, 7 million people– we make a difference; we can make a difference here. We can make changes, and we have to,” he said.

Briefly, Manchin added how this idea applies to the issue of coal.

“The world is going to use whatever it has in its back yard; that’s the way it’s always been. Can we use it cleaner? Can we do more research, innovation and development? Absolutely. But not one of those countries except the United States uses it as a political divide to fight over,” he said.

Later, Manchin emphasized the importance of West Virginian pride, saying, “I want you to be so proud of who you are and the heritage that you have.” He then went on to list many acclaimed West Virginians, including Katherine Johnson, Chuck Yeager, Jerry West, Homer Hickam, Mary Lou Retton and many more.

“You can be anything you want to be. I don’t care what part of West Virginia you’re from. There are people who basically respect who we are and what we contribute to this great country,” Manchin said.

“There has never been a generation that has let this country down. There have been some that could’ve done better, but they’ve never let their country down; they’ve always risen to the task. You’re going to be charged with that. You’re going to be challenged on how good you really are, and I think the roots that you have in West Virginia will fare well for you. It’s going to show you how you can basically excel in anything you want to do,” Manchin said.

Candidates for citizens of Rhododendron Girls State are recommended by their high schools based on their interest in government, leadership, character and honesty, scholarship, cooperativeness, community participation, knowledge of parliamentary procedures and demonstration of above average scholastic achievement.