Tennant addresses Girls State, welds in Wheeling

WHEELING – West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant encouraged high school girls to strive for confidence in their life’s attempts during a stop at Wheeling Jesuit University Monday before receiving a welding lesson from local ironworkers at their downtown union hall.

Tennant addressed participants in this week’s Rhododendron Girls State at WJU at lunch time, and she told them repetition – trying and often failing at endeavors – breeds comfort, and ultimately confidence, in what you do. Confidence, she said, then breeds success.

“I need you to be the best West Virginians you can be,” Tennant said. “I need you to be the best women you can be, and you build that through the confidence of ups and downs.”

And there’s nothing wrong with exuding confidence, according to Tennant. One student asked her if she felt confident about her actions while in office.

“Suffice it to say, I’m a very good secretary of state,” Tennant said. “The advances we’ve made in the office by helping businesses – we’re on the front lines.

“I’ve cut the budget, saved $3 million for the taxpayers of West Virginia, and given it back to the taxpayers.”

Tennant – a native of the Fairview, W.Va., area – also spoke to the young women about making ethical decisions, and the measurement she uses to know what is right.

“I think, ‘Can I go back to the farm and explain to my father and family what I’ve done?'” Tennant said. “If I can, it was the right thing to do.”

She encouraged them never to forget where they come from, and to represent West Virginia well.

Tennant has spoken each year at Girls State since taking office in 2009, and she comes back each year because she knows the importance of having role models.

“This was me in 1985,” she said. “I knew what I had in role models in my mother, and in my sister. I recognize sometimes we need to be able to see ourselves in others.”

Following her appearance at Girls State, she stopped by Ironworkers Local 549, where she spoke to officials about how vocational options are needed for students who don’t want to go to college.

She spoke of her brother, Tim Tennant, who worked as a welder for more than 20 years before getting a college degree in education. He is employed as a science teacher at East Fairmont High School.

During the visit, Tennant tried her hand at welding on a simulator under the watchful eye of John Rothacker, apprenticeship coordinator. Her first weld wasn’t straight, but she continued to try again and improve her efforts.