November 08, 2014

Manchin stresses importance of education | Weirton Daily Times

WEIRTON - U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., spoke to Weir High School students about the importance of education and several other national issues during an informal talk and discussion with student government leaders and the senior civics class.

Ed Bowman, former Weirton mayor and state senator, introduced Manchin.

Manchin spoke about a wide range of issues, from whether he would make a presidential run and his disagreements with President Barack Obama's Environmental Protection Agency to illegal immigration, Common Core, raising the minimum wage and legalizing marijuana.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., spoke to the Weir High School student government and senior civics class during a series of stops in the Hancock and Brooke counties Friday. -- Summer Wallace-Minger

Participating in the democratic process is a partnership and responsibility, he said.

"When I was your age, I never thought about it, either," Manchin said. "I thought it was someone else's responsibility.

His change of heart was inspired by the example set by the "young, vibrant" President John F. Kennedy.

"In 1962, he told us we were going to put a man on the moon - and bring him back," he said. "In 1962, we couldn't even get a rocket off the ground. Russia was cleaning our clocks. (Kennedy) threw the gauntlet down. Why? Because we're Americans, and there's nothing we can't do."

Manchin didn't enter politics until he was in his mid-30s, making the decision after seeing a politician suggest his father repay past favors by helping him get elected.

"My dad never asked for a favor," Manchin said. "He would say something if someone needed help. That's not doing a favor, that's doing your job. My father had asked him to do his job, and he came back like he had done him a favor."

Manchin entered the House of Delegates race, then decided to make the jump to the state Senate.

"As a delegate, I was one in 100," he said. "In the state Senate, I would be one in 34, and that gave my voice three times as much weight."

He later ran for governor in 1996 and lost, describing it as a learning experience.

"Defeat doesn't have a home, but victory has a thousand homes," he said. "It's easy to win. When you lose, it's time to show who you are."

Manchin later became secretary of state in 2000, governor in 2008 and was appointed U.S. senator after the death of Robert C. Byrd in 2010.

Manchin compared the United States' educational system to that of China, where, after nine years, those who don't meet certain standards are shunted out of the educational system into the work force. Students frequently attend school six days a week, returning in the evenings to help tutor their parents. He called for year-round education, suggesting nine-week terms followed by three-week breaks.

"They want the life that you and I take for granted," Manchin said. "They saw we were who we were because of our education."

The United States no longer is first in education, he said.

"Korea is eating our lunch every day, in every test," Manchin said.

Improvements must be made in the educational system, and students must do their best to get as much out of their education as possible and apply themselves.

"Are you wringing every drop out of your education?" Manchin asked.

He also encouraged them to give back to their communities.

"You want to feel good about yourself?" he asked. "Go help someone else. No matter how bad you have it, someone has it worse."

One of the most important skills the students must master is being able to manage their finances. Manchin warned them against going into too much debt during their college years, encouraging them to speak with their principal, counselor or call his office to seek financial aid and counseling for college.

Manchin described himself as a moderate to conservative Democrat, "fiscally conservative and socially compassionate," and spoke about the importance of being able to compromise and treat other legislators with professionalism.

Manchin said campaigning for president is "probably not in the cards for me," but he is looking to support a candidate, regardless of party, whom he believes shares his priorities in education, veterans' affairs and senior citizens.


By:  Summer Wallace-Minger