The best steel comes from the hottest fire, and the fires of the Civil War transformed West Virginia from a fragile hope to a well-tempered steely reality, dedicated to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.
West Virginia is great because our people are great - mountaineers who will always be free.
We are tough, independent, inventive and honest, our character shaped by the wilderness of our state - its rushing streams, its boundless blue skies, its divine forests and its majestic mountains.
Our home is, in the words of best-selling novelist James Alexander Thom, "a place for health and high spirits, where one's first look out the cabin door every morning (makes) the heart swell up."
Thom wrote of our magnetic land as it existed long before it achieved statehood, but his words ring just as true of today's West Virginia - of a state of natural beauty, world-class outdoor recreation, year-round festivals, ancient crafts, rich culture, strong traditions, industry and trade.
It is a place of coal mines and card tables, racing horses and soaring eagles, rocket boys and Right Stuff test pilots, sparkling lakes and magical mountains, breathtaking backcountry and barbecue joints, golf and the Greenbrier, battlefields and big-time college football, college towns and small towns that are pure Americana.
It is a place of power, pulse and passion - the special place we call West Virginia, the special place we call home.
I admit, we've had our ups and downs, our setbacks and triumphs. We've had some pretty famous family feuds, and life can be tough sometimes.
But the spirit of West Virginia has never been broken.
And it never will be. I learned that a long time ago, growing up in a small coal mining town of hard-working men and women.
When things get tough, we get tougher.
It is as if we still hear the words of Francis Pierpont from 1861 when he told the delegates to the Second Wheeling Convention as they debated whether to secede from Virginia:
"We are passing through a period of gloom and darkness . . . but we must not despair. There is a just God, who rides upon the whirlwind and directs the storm."
Or the words of President John F. Kennedy from the rain-soaked steps of the State Capitol in Charleston during our state's Centennial celebration: "The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do."
We are West Virginians. Even in the darkness and the gloom, we look to a just God who directs the storm.
We are West Virginians. We are the 35th state of these United States.
We are West Virginians. And like the brave, loyal patriots who made West Virginia the 35th star on Old Glory, our love of God and country and family and state is unshakeable.
That is well worth celebrating every year.
Manchin, a Democrat, is the state's junior U.S. senator and was its 34th governor.