WEBSTER SPRINGS, W.VA. – No president has ever visited here before. So, it was a pretty big deal when 14 local high school students had President Trump in their class and talked to them Wednesday, all thanks to a Skype video call that Senator Joe Manchin had with a civic-sense course.
Brennan Williams still grins ear to ear for a few days after the experience. Well, I mean, I have never spoken to anyone who was so important, and it was just crazy, & # 39; he said when he first spoke to Manchin.
"Then the President of the United States calls the Senator and decides that he wants to talk with us, well, that was even crazier. I just could not stop smiling; I still can not, "said the 18-year-old senior.
His classmate Parker Stout, 18, said it was an honor he will never forget. "We prepared for our Skype call with Sen. Manchin by looking at the State of the Union Address on Tuesday night, and what we never expected was that we would be talking to the president," Stout said.
Manchin said the once-in-a-lifetime event took place on Wednesday afternoon during a Skype video call organized by Webster County High School director Stacey Cutlip with the senator's office to discuss issues raised during the State or the Union, as well as other topics.
"They wanted to talk about the environment, they wanted to talk about coal, the job opportunities, what is going to happen, and they want to talk about weapons, as you know, that's usually a big thing." But now the pre-incinerator was shutdown, how we are going to tackle it and border security, "Manchin explained in an interview with the Washington Examiner.
"So, we were talking about all those things, and we were in our conversation for 20 minutes or so, and I see" Unknown "popping up on my mobile, well, I know how it pops up, it's going to be someone out of the office from Schumer or the McConnell office who is calling about something, "he explains.
"Or maybe the White House, you never know," he says.
Turns out that it was the White House, in particular the assistant of President Trump on the other side.
So I pick up the phone and his assistant Madeline says: & # 39; The president wants to talk to you, Joe. & # 39; And I said: & # 39; Okay, Madeline. I am in conversation. Let me tell these children that I keep them on hold for a while. A moment later I will not tell them anything, "Manchin explained.
He tells the children to pause them for a few minutes and from their vantage point Stout and Williams declared that everything they saw was a black screen. Moments later, Manchin returns and tells the students that he has "a little surprise for you".
Manchin switched on the phone and the president began to chat with the children.
Not everyone in the room you know is politically speaking to Trump, but at the time it did not matter, just the fact that you are going to listen to the president, talking to a small group of children. Everyone had a smile on his face and was just so surprised and could not really say anything, we just listened to him and smiled, "Parker said.
Manchin said that Trump was very charming with the kids: "He says," I love West Virginia, and I know they like Joe, and they love me, and we're going to work together. "And he said that they had to stay involved, and he appreciated being very interested and excited that they were involved in the process and wanted to know what happened. "
The president also mentioned the reason why he named Manchin, to thank him for the applause when some Democrats did so during bimonthly moments in the State of the Union speech.
"I said:" Mr. President, I have always said that I know my condition well and that it is something that my state and I represent the people of my state, I will stand up and be respectful. thought that the things you said resonated with something I would believe in, but certainly support my state, I will be there and show the politeness and manners that I think I grew up with, & # 39; "said Manchin. about his personal conversation with the president.
The former governor stood several times and applauded during the President's speech, particularly on energy projects and long-term abortions.
Energy is something big that he talked about, Manchin said. "He was not talking about coal, but he was talking about energy in general, we are an energy state and we want to continue to make sure we provide the energy that the country needs," he said.
Manchin said that the most "controversial things I applauded" were the personal problems in life. "Well, there's just no way I could ever, I mean how someone can support abortions in the long run?" He said.
Manchin said he could "feel the daggers" when he stood up for Trump's remarks asking for legislation to restrict abortions in the third trimester. "Abortions in the long run, my heaven It should be a nasty medical situation," he said, adding that what Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam had supported and what Andrew Cuomo of New York has done with late-term abortion accounts in their states "is just totally unreasonable for me". . "
Manchin said he was a bit struck by the Reuters photo he saw during his speech and that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sat behind him and gave him the stinking eye: "My heaven, I could hear a little bit of anger. You know, I did not know if it was a shrieking for the president or for me, I was not sure, but I the daggers could certainly feel. "
Stout said that one of the things he really respected about Manchin during the president's speech was how he conducted himself. "That's one thing I really enjoyed, because he did not agree with everything the president said, but things he agreed with, he got up, unlike the other Democrats who did not, what it's just a matter of keeping track of things that can be good for every state, "he said.
This fall will go to West Virginia University in Morgantown this fall for a degree in criminology and ultimately law studies; he registered as an independent person when he turned 18 at the end of last fall.
Williams is also registered as an independent; he goes to Fairmont State University for aerospace engineering. "I would like to live in Maine or Florida, probably Maine, so that I can hunt," he said.
Cutlip, the headmaster, said that too many people want to give a political spin to the moment; she insists that they miss the bigger point. "Honest to God, it was just that we were in the right place at the right time, and I think we were just very honored that the president had taken the time to say hi to the children." It was just an honor, "she said.
Webster Springs, a charming town on the river Elk, is a sparsely populated provincial capital (less than 800 inhabitants) in a sparsely populated province (less than 9,000) where half of the geography is occupied by the majestic beauty and dense forests of the Monongahela National Forest and the Holly River State Park.
Webster County is a reliable Democratic voice since the state was founded in 1863. Data collected by Dave Leip in the American Atlas elections show that the streak has only been broken three times since then. Webster just went in 1972 for Richard Nixon, for Mitt Romney in 2012 (it was in 2008 for Barack Obama) and again for Donald Trump in 2016.
There is no evidence that a seated American president has ever visited the province.
The economy in this province has been dependent on coal for more than 100 years. Because the area has declined and destroyed economically over the past 10 years, shale, the distribution of natural gas through the Mountain Valley pipeline and tourism have contributed somewhat to stabilizing the sled.