CHARLESTON -- From season to season, and month to month in this column, I have reveled in the natural wonders of our state, highlighted the true beauty of our land, and celebrated the caring and commitment and its people that comes from within.

Yet, it is still hard to believe that another year has really come and gone in what seems like "the blink of an eye".

As Joe and I look forward to time with our family and friends this blessed season, we also are making the concerted effort to pause and reflect on year 2006.

There certainly has been both great tragedy and great joys within our small state. The horrendous mine tragedies early in the year brought the eyes of the world to our doorstep. The nation and the world prayed with us and shared our tears of both pain and hope.

As a result, the Governor and the Legislature passed historic legislation, which was then passed nationally, to increase rescue and response times. In addition, great focus has been placed on policy around safety in all of our professions where men and women are put in harm's way.

West Virginia has also made great strides over the last year in providing a better quality of life for its families in their homes and in their work places.

Our Healthy Lifestyles Initiative and Coalition are touching every school and community to heighten awareness about making wiser food choices and increasing our physical activity. We are engaging West Virginians of all ages in activities that have us "on the move" and "eating healthy".

Again, we believe our young citizens will be the force that starts changing our mind set and culture.

West Virginia continues to be a beacon of respite for both out-of-state visitors and our own citizens with state parks and resorts – all celebrating a record year in tourism.

Our state is honored to be hosting its first movie premier ever this month with We Are Marshall in the newly restored Keith Albee Theatre in Huntington. Both the history and the drama of this story again illustrate the character and resiliency of our people.

While we know there is much left to be accomplished, Joe and I also believe we have much in which to rejoice. Certainly a book could be written on challenges our citizens have overcome, barriers that have destroyed, and the many, many people who have made a difference in the life of someone else through service and volunteerism.

As we look beyond the holidays and the New Year celebrations, our resolutions will center on a continued commitment of communication and cooperation. My personal resolution is to become as accomplished as my grandchildren on the Dance, Dance Revolution video game, which is extremely active!! I will keep you posted!

May each of you discover a new sense of joy, peace and love through this Christmas season and enjoy together with loved ones a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year! Holiday greetings and Merry Christmas to you and yours from the Manchin family!

Manchin is West Virginia's First Lady.

More News