As West Virginia celebrates its 146th birthday, inhabitants ponder meaning, relationship of Montani Semper Liberi.

Emblazoned ~ above the state flag and seal, the Latin expression Montani Semper Liberi method “Mountaineers are constantly free.”

Although West Virginians watch the motto every time they look at a state flag, how regularly do us really think around its meaning? and how frequently do state leaders take it it into consideration while conducting state business?

State occupants seem come generally believe the motto is quiet as appropriate today together it ever was. The is a way of to express the ideals the both the state and the country, said Marjorie Webb that Charleston.

“I think it’s fitting,” she said. “When the talks about the Mountaineers always being free, it way a lot an ext than what people give it credit transaction for. That goes along with the totality idea the what America stands for, what we value as a country.”

Although the state is a an extremely different location from what it was as soon as we broke away indigenous Virginia throughout the civil War, the motto quiet is relevant, claimed Ron Justice, market of Morgantown.

“I think the motto still applies today,” that said. “When i think of the motto ns think the the freedom and also rights that we have as people and how plenty of times us take those freedoms because that granted. I likewise think of flexibility in the feeling of geography. Offered our mountains and also beauty, we have many areas that proceed to it is in undisturbed whereby you gain the emotion of freedom and also space.

“I do think we have an ext government manage today than once the motto was very first conceived, however, ns think we still reap the conceptual freedoms that derived the motto ‘mountaineers are constantly free."”

To state Auditor valley B. Gainer III, the motto has actually a much more spiritual meaning, i m sorry he placed in the form of a poem:

Mountaineers are always free.

We answer just to a higher power, that is, ours God. Us obey ours consciences, ours hearts — no the ephemeral ebb and also flow of publicly fashion.

West Virginians room as rugged as our mountains; as generous as our plentiful wildlife; as facility as our network the clean, free-flowing rivers.

When our state was admitted to the Union in 1863, West Virginians embraced the good Seal. A big rock, i beg your pardon signifies strength and stability, adorns its center. Below the stone, a farmer and a miner, these precious words curl upward — Montani Semper Liberi.

As true this day as yesterday, us Mountaineers esteem freedom, love elbowroom, evaluate autonomy and rejoice in the emancipation of all person beings.

To some, the motto expresses a sense of not only freedom, but additionally empowerment.

”I’ve constantly agreed v it and constantly believed Mountaineers must be free,” stated Amanda Rogerson the Wheeling. “It’s an extremely positive. Ns think it’s empowering.”

Different type of flexibility

Of course, there space several ways to look in ~ the issue. Native an economic standpoint, we may not it is in as complimentary as we would favor to think we are, said Cal Kent, evil president for business and also economic research study at Marshall University.

“Being one economist, when I talk around freedom, i talk around economic freedom,” that said.

To illustrate the degree of our economic freedom, Kent pointed come the financial Freedom Index, which is compiled each year by Forbes magazine and the Pacific research study Institute. In the 2008 report, West Virginia ranked 38th in the country.

Although the sounds bad, that is largely common of claims in the region. In ~ ninth, Virginia ranks greatest of the says that border West Virginia. But Maryland ranking 34, Kentucky is 40th, Pennsylvania 46th and Ohio is 44th.

“Compared to surrounding states, v the exception of Virginia, we have much more economic flexibility using the index,” Kent said. “We’ve stayed in that rank since 1999.”

The index is compiled by measure up variables favor the state’s regulation atmosphere and also judicial system, both of which ache the hill State, said Russell S. Sobel, professor of business economics at West Virginia University. Recently, Sobel proficient the regulation pitfalls the West Virginia first-hand when trying to aid the wife of a brand-new professor obtain a license to it is in a hair stylist.

“She has been cut hair for 5 years in Mississippi,” he said. “I checked through the state board of Barbers and also Cosmetologists.”

A employee member in ~ the plank told Sobel there was good news and bad news, the said. The great news was the there room plenty of work for stylists in the state. The bad news to be it bring away 2,000 hours of training to get a license.

“We’re the hardest state to gain a license,” Sobel said. “… It’s stuff like that that hurts us.”

For those that take the motto much more literally, there is an ext economic poor news, Kent said. The state is just one of the most dependent on commonwealth funds.

“That is true … primarily since of transport payments from social Security, (Supplemental defense Income) and also Medicaid,” the said. “The reality is, we’re a bad state and we have a favorable matching formula (for grants).”

According to info from Kent, West Virginia obtain $1.76 for every $1 of federal taxes paid. The puts the state at No. 5. In 2007, brand-new Mexico was an initial at $2.03 for every $1 paid, he said.

And West Virginia has remained in that form for decades, Sobel said.

“A many it originates from the new Deal,” he said.

One figure that surprises Kent is that government employment in the state, as a percentage of the complete work force, to be 13.1 percent in 1970. The number peaked in ~ 15 percent in the 1980s, and today the is earlier to 13 percent.

But it’s not simply economic and political troubles that have actually caused West Virginia to operation afoul of its motto, claimed Jason Keeling, a Charleston-based blogger.

“The motto is not a … fully accurate representation of West Virginia,” that said. “Mountaineers room not constantly free. We have been bowing to exterior interests that have actually exploited us. We could like to think of ourselves in that fashion, however we’re not totally free in plenty of ways.”

For West Virginia work this year, Keeling has invited reader of his blog — https://www.abetterwestvirginia.com/ — to send their principles for how to enhance the state, the said. He wants to recognize obstacles the are gaining in the way of development in West Virginia.

Mountaineer heart

Although the motto might not be literally true in every respect today, that still walk reflect the significance of the human being living here, claimed West Virginia Superintendent of colleges Steve Paine.

“West Virginia’s motto, ‘Montani Semper Liberi’ or ‘Mountaineers Are always Free,’ reflects the independence and also pioneering spirit that led ours state’s forefathers come break far from Virginia and kind a separate state,” the said. “That pioneering spirit is as vital today together it remained in 1863.”

And West Virginia still has actually that spirit when it involves education, Paine said.

“Today, I’m proud the West Virginia is a pioneer in education by leading initiatives to strengthen core subjects and incorporate 21st century skills into our public school curriculum,” that said. “We contact it Global21: Students worthy it. The world demands it. The knowledge economic situation has adjusted how we communicate and also just together our ancestors adapted to the harsh mountain problems in West Virginia, therefore to have to schools adapt so the our youngsters will have actually the knowledge and an abilities they have to succeed in a global economy.”

Teaching the state’s children around the meaning of the motto is important, said Kim Mason of Charleston.

“I think people have gained away native it,” she said. “I’m a reconnaissance leader and also we shot to teach the kids around the legacy West Virginia has. So many people don’t realize it.”

Parkersburg resides Rhodessa Hoselton prospered up learning the prominence of the motto and the state’s heritage also though she wasn’t born here.

“My mommy is from West Virginia,” she said. “We travel a lot since my dad remained in the military. My mom constantly wanted come move back to West Virginia.”

But currently she considers it s her a West Virginian and works come teach her children around the state’s heritage, she said.

Time for a Change?

Perhaps that is time the the motto mirrors today’s fact in West Virginia, said Jessica Crislip that Weston. A lot of people who room not native Mountaineers reside right here today and the motto should incorporate them and the new ideas in the state.

“It’s a good motto,” she said. “At the same time, ns would choose to see a an ext progressive and also all-inclusive motto. It have to be open up to an ext things. It should be progressive and also diverse.”

That can not be a negative idea due to the fact that the existing motto doesn’t always reflect reality, claimed A. Michael Perry, a Huntington businessman.

“I think the has much more to perform with the old-timer native ‘beholden,"” the said. “I think (the state’s founders) were proud that the truth that lock were no beholden to anyone. … They were proud of the fact that they to be independent. I would hope that’s still our motto and that world still know what that means.”

If not, possibly it is time for a new motto, Perry said.


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When he began his blog in 2007, among Keeling’s friends suggested using the tag line “Montani Semper Lenimentus,” which method “Mountaineers are constantly Improving.”

“It’s much more important to look at ourselves together improving,” the said. “We can’t really say we’re complimentary … until we improve.”