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

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

Although West Virginians see the motto every time they look in ~ a state flag, how regularly do we really think about its meaning? and also how regularly do state leaders take it into consideration while conducting state business?

State residents seem to generally believe the motto is quiet as appropriate today as it ever before was. That is a means of express the ideals the both the state and the country, claimed Marjorie Webb of Charleston.

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

Although the state is a very different ar from what that was as soon as we damaged away indigenous Virginia throughout the civil War, the motto quiet is relevant, stated Ron Justice, mayor of Morgantown.

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

“I perform think we have an ext government manage today than when the motto was an initial conceived, however, ns think us still gain the conceptual freedoms that derived the motto ‘mountaineers are always free.\"”

To state Auditor glenn B. Gainer III, the motto has a much more spiritual meaning, i beg your pardon he put in the form of a poem:

Mountaineers are always free.

We answer only to a higher power, that is, our God. Us obey our consciences, ours hearts — not the ephemeral ebb and flow of windy fashion.

West Virginians are as rugged together our mountains; together generous together our plentiful wildlife; as complicated as our network that clean, free-flowing rivers.

When our state to be admitted come the Union in 1863, West Virginians adopted the an excellent Seal. A big rock, which signifies strength and also 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 that all human being beings.

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

”I’ve constantly agreed through it and constantly believed Mountaineers need to be free,” stated Amanda Rogerson that Wheeling. “It’s really positive. I think it’s empowering.”

Different type of liberty

Of course, there are several ways to look in ~ the issue. From an financial standpoint, we may not be as free as us would favor to think us are, stated Cal Kent, evil president because that business and also economic research at Marshall University.

“Being an economist, as soon as I talk around freedom, i talk about economic freedom,” the said.

To illustrate the level of our financial freedom, Kent pointed to the economic Freedom Index, i beg your pardon is compiled annually by Forbes magazine and also the Pacific research Institute. In the 2008 report, West Virginia ranked 38th in the country.

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

“Compared to surrounding states, v the exception of Virginia, we have an ext economic liberty using the index,” Kent said. “We’ve stayed in the rank due to the fact that 1999.”

The table of contents is compiled by measuring variables prefer the state’s regulation atmosphere and also judicial system, both the which hurt the hill State, said Russell S. Sobel, professor of business economics at West Virginia University. Recently, Sobel proficient the regulation pitfalls of West Virginia first-hand if trying to help the mam of a new professor obtain a patent to it is in a hair stylist.

“She has been cutting hair for 5 years in Mississippi,” that said. “I checked with the state plank of Barbers and also Cosmetologists.”

A employee member in ~ the board told Sobel there was good news and bad news, that said. The good news was the there space plenty of work for stylists in the state. The poor news was it take away 2,000 hrs of training to obtain a license.

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

For those who take the motto more literally, there is more economic negative news, Kent said. The state is just one of the many dependent on commonwealth funds.

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

According to details from Kent, West Virginia receive $1.76 because that every $1 of commonwealth taxes paid. The puts the state in ~ No. 5. In 2007, brand-new Mexico was an initial at $2.03 for every $1 paid, that said.

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

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

One number that surprises Kent is that government employment in the state, together a portion of the complete work force, was 13.1 percent in 1970. The number peaked at 15 percent in the 1980s, and also today that is ago to 13 percent.

But it’s not just economic and political problems that have caused West Virginia to operation afoul the its motto, stated Jason Keeling, a Charleston-based blogger.

“The motto is not a … completely accurate depiction of West Virginia,” he said. “Mountaineers space not always free. We have been bowing to outside interests that have exploited us. We might like come think of ourself in that fashion, but we’re not complimentary in many ways.”

For West Virginia day this year, Keeling has invited reader of his blog — https://www.abetterwestvirginia.com/ — to send their ideas for just how to improve the state, he said. He desires to recognize obstacles that are getting in the means of development in West Virginia.

Mountaineer soul

Although the motto might not it is in literally true in every respect today, it still walk reflect the significance of the world living here, said West Virginia Superintendent of colleges Steve Paine.

“West Virginia’s motto, ‘Montani Semper Liberi’ or ‘Mountaineers Are always Free,’ reflects the independence and pioneering heart that led our state’s forefathers come break away from Virginia and form a separate state,” the said. “That pioneering heart is as necessary today together it was in 1863.”

And West Virginia still has actually that spirit once it concerns education, Paine said.

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

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

“I think civilization have obtained away from it,” she said. “I’m a reconnaissance leader and we try to teach the kids about the heritage West Virginia has. For this reason many human being don’t establish it.”

Parkersburg residents Rhodessa Hoselton thrived up knowing the importance of the motto and also the state’s heritage even though she wasn’t born here.

“My mother is indigenous West Virginia,” she said. “We travel a lot because my dad was in the military. Mine mom always wanted to move earlier to West Virginia.”

But now she considers herself a West Virginian and also works come teach she children about the state’s heritage, she said.

Time because that a Change?

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

“It’s a good motto,” she said. “At the exact same time, i would like to check out a much more progressive and all-inclusive motto. It need to be open up to an ext things. It must be progressive and diverse.”

That could not be a bad idea because the existing motto doesn’t always reflect reality, said A. Michael Perry, a Huntington businessman.

“I think that has much more to do with the old-timer word ‘beholden,\"” that said. “I think (the state’s founders) to be proud of the reality that lock were not beholden come anyone. … They to be proud that the fact that they to be independent. I would certainly hope that’s tho our motto and that human being still understand what it means.”

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


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When he started his blog in 2007, among Keeling’s friends argued using the tag heat “Montani Semper Lenimentus,” which means “Mountaineers are always Improving.”

“It’s an ext important to look at ourselves as improving,” the said. “We can’t really say we’re free … till we improve.”