March 17, 2016

Manchin speaks via Skype with PHS class | Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG - Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., spoke Wednesday to a Parkersburg High School government class via Skype, answering student-prepared questions on a variety of topics.

The video session happened around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday and lasted about half an hour. Manchin spoke to students in teacher David Woody's Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics class, as well as students from his other classes who were invited to attend.

Last fall, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., spoke to students at PHS.

Manchin participates in a weekly Skype session with a West Virginia high school or college and answers students' questions. The PHS students asked questions on a number of local and national policy issues, including the current presidential campaign, the Supreme Court nomination process and concealed carry laws.

"I think it's tremendous," Woody said. "The students get to hear from me every day. It's not quite the same as hearing from the person who is in the process of doing the job."

The event was organized by PHS senior Chelsea Harper, who said she contacted Manchin's office to see if he could speak to the class.

"I've always been a big supporter of Sen. Manchin," she said. "I emailed him and he got back to me."

Harper said it was a unique experience, as Manchin was candid while speaking to the students.

"He gave really good responses, well-worded," she said. "It was nice to hear his opinion on things."

Sabrina Smith, a senior at PHS, said one question was about whether schools should create transgender bathrooms or allow transgender students to choose a bathroom based on the sex with which they identify.

"He gave a really good answer, and one I wasn't expecting," she said. "He suggested instead of creating an entirely new bathroom, which due to economic reasons schools might not be able to afford to do, we could accommodate transgender students by letting them use staff bathrooms, until we can figure out a more permanent solution."

PHS senior Haley Tanner said another question had to do with coal and its future in West Virginia. The coal industry has been hit hard in recent years with layoffs and closures as the United States and the world look at climate change and alternative energy.

Tanner said Manchin spoke about how the state's economy has been built on coal and it has been a painful transition to look for new areas of revenue as well as its effect on communities built around coal mining.

"He spent a lot of time on it," she said. "West Virginia is known for coal, and he talked about how China uses about half the world's coal, so it's not just something that affects us."

Shae Woodburn, a PHS senior, said Manchin was most outspoken when asked about the recent passage of a constitutional carry law by the West Virginia Legislature. The law allows state citizens age 21 and older to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Manchin has been a vocal opponent of the law which does not require the bearer to have any training with the weapon.

"He seemed to really dislike it. He was not a fan," she said.

Woodburn said she was grateful Manchin spoke to the class.

"It was nice that a senator would take the time to talk to a group of high school students from his state," she said.

Harper said it is important for elected officials to reach out to young voters and make more of an effort to get to know them.

"I would love if more of our representatives would get in touch with young people," she said. "I feel like more people should vote. Especially those around my age, I think they need to make more of an effort to participate."

Woody said he hopes Wednesday's Skype session has that effect.

"I think it will help some of the students in their political activity," he said. "Virtually all of these students are registered to vote, and most say they plan to vote. I hope this encourages them to realize it is important who they put into political office."

"I'm happy I had the opportunity to speak with the inquisitive students of Parkersburg High School today," Manchin said in a press release Wednesday. "We discussed several complex issues and the students all posed excellent questions. I always look forward to my weekly Skype sessions because these discussions give me the opportunity to interact with our next generation of West Virginians."

Source: By Micael Erb