As our young ones go back to school, they will take with them treasured memories of time spent with families through the long summer days, memories that will last a life time. For many, many families across southern West Virginia, there is nothing like the summer family reunion to kindle tender family moments that will stand the test of time, and even yield some important lessons for the country.
No matter how large or small your extended family is, numbers at reunions aren’t what really count. No, it’s about how deeply your loyalty and love for one another run – two prerequisites to being a true West Virginian. Getting our fill of family recipes, photos and wonderful stories reenergizes family traditions, loyalties, and family spirit as well. All that social media – Facebook, Twitter, Insta-gram – is no substitute for a real hug. There is nothing like cuddling the newest little ones, or sharing a big old bear hug, and remembering those who have passed on, or even a friendly backslap over a little gossip.
Reunions and get-togethers make family matter more to kids, with new family bonds and loyalties that are forged, all simply because they see it’s important to you, their parents and grandparents. Statistics on the American family tell us that older folks are living longer, more are living alone, and families are having fewer children. Given those facts, family visits and get-togethers become all the more important.
I think staples at reunions, like prayer, worship, and enjoying some down-home gospel, are important, enabling young ones to witness the practice of their family faith outside the doors of the church. They need to know they live in a land of religious liberty. We, in government, likewise have a responsibility to make certain the public square is open for the free exercise of religion. That’s why I am again working to pass a Constitutional Amendment to protect voluntary prayer in our schools. And, despite what some past courts have ruled, the words “under God” are going to stay in our Pledge of Allegiance, and “In God We Trust,” will stay on our money, if I have anything to say about it. And, I do! Protecting our Constitutional rights has been and always will be a priority of mine.
Like so many in West Virginia, I am proud of my family history and of the immigrants who helped to build West Virginia. My grandfather emigrated from Lebanon and scraped together a living selling linens in our State’s coal camps. He believed in hard work, God, and family, and fell in love with the United States and West Virginia.
We are a compassionate and generous Nation when it comes to immigration. Our State greatly benefited from the immigrant families who migrated to our southern coal fields in the last century, working in our mines and factories and steel mills and building our railroads and economic infrastructure, as well as contributing to our State’s culture and arts. Certainly, we will benefit from future generations of immigrants.
But, we must ensure that those generations live up to their responsibilities as past generations did – learning the English language, absorbing our Constitutional principles, and abiding by the law. And, of course, we must always be protective of the jobs and salaries of American workers, while making sure that the American taxpayer is not forced to shoulder any unfair burdens.
Here at home, our communities battle drugs daily, and we have catastrophic healthcare needs. Working West Virginians and retirees on fixed incomes are struggling to afford basic care, and they deserve a health care system that will work for them when they need it most. I am among the first to say that Obamacare needs some surgery, and I am casting votes and cosponsoring bills to fix it. But, while there may be portions of the law that require improvement, it certainly does not require a wholesale repeal.
And we can’t stop working on our roads and bridges, and our water and wastewater needs. On my Transportation Committee in the Congress, we once had a motto that reflected an understanding of the common trials and triumphs of Americans: “There are no Republican bridges, no Democratic bridges, just America’s bridges.”
That is the lesson for the Nation’s Capital with all its discord, dissension and deadlock. It is one repeated throughout southern West Virginia this summer. Perhaps it’s past time we had an American Reunion, where everyone could be reminded of the history and the hopes we share as a Nation. Finding that common ground could help to get us back on track economically, creating jobs, and defending our shores from enemies abroad. Because when America works as one, no one can stop us.