What it takes


By Scott Roberston

Would you agree that education, health and prosperity generally go hand-in-hand? Well, people who leave the educational system early tend to have a higher incidence of health issues, and they have less money with which to deal with those issues. So, challenges to health and prosperity are greater for those with less education.

People with less education also have a harder time finding high paying jobs, so prosperity generally comes easier for those with more education. That is changing to some extent, as pathways open from high school through certification programs, TCATs, and in some areas, apprenticeships and internships lead directly into the workforce at higher pay than in years past. A high school diploma or its equivalent, however, is still the lead-in to all those pathways to prosperity.

Our region’s leaders in business and government began years ago to attempt to address our challenges in education and health, with only mixed success. I would argue part of the reason for our failures in those arenas is that we are paying too little attention to other factors that are potential keys to prosperity.

The first is mindset. Too often in central Appalachian culture, ambition is considered the eighth deadly sin. Many of us can remember having been told by someone, “Don’t try to go above your raising,” or “It was good enough for your daddy, it’s good enough for you.”

Folks who fear their values are under attack often go into a defensive posture against anything that’s different than what they grew up with. But you can be more successful than your daddy was in providing for your family without in any way rejecting the values that your family rightfully holds dear.

People like Hillary Clinton who recently described regions like ours as “backward,” don’t understand that. They don’t get that we can maintain values like faith without being stuck in a declining economic situation.

I said in this space last week that faith is the key to the next world, and that understanding, admitting and dealing with the changes of this one are the keys to living in this one. Taken in context, that statement referred to faith in our own institutions. But in a larger context, I would argue that faith should go hand-in-hand with ambition in building a prosperous life. And I’m pretty sure the Hillarys of the world don’t agree with that at all.

To be fair to them, I know of many prosperous people who would describe themselves as faithless. It’s easy to look at them and say, “Yes, but their earthly success will be fleeting in comparison to their eternity.”

But those folks aren’t the people we should be looking to anyway. There are many people in our region who understand not only the links between education, health and prosperity; but also the links between ambition, faith and prosperity. Our regional effort to raise up a stronger economy should take all those factors into account, just as we take them into account in raising our children. Hillary Clinton believes it takes a village to raise a child. I believe if we raise our children to be healthy, wise, ambitious and faithful, they will raise up our villages.


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