Jordan Ball, son of former Williamson residents Steven Ball and Norma (Jackson) Ball, recently delivered a speech in Washington, D.C. at the national New Leaders Council retreat with regard to coal country.
His grandparents are Williamson residents Eugene and Mizie Jackson and Elizabeth Ball and the late John Ball.
Ball serves as a US Senate regional representative in Southwestern Pennsylvania and is Co-Director of New Leaders Council Pittsburgh chapter, a prestigious leadership program that recruits and trains the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders from diverse sectors. Presenters were chosen from a large pool of applicants and given exactly five minutes to discuss a thought-provoking topic. In consideration of his deep regional roots and affinity for Southern West Virginia, Mr. Ball used Williamson and Mingo County as a backdrop for his speech to discuss rebuilding Appalachia.
In his speech, Ball reminded national leaders that Appalachia was once ground zero for progressive action, from Mother Jones leading the crusade against child labor, to the United Mine Workers demanding workers’ rights. He followed up by challenging political leaders to include Appalachia in economic development plans.
“Progressives talk a lot about an anti-poverty agenda, but are they actually talking to people who are poor? People can’t say ‘we are inclusive and diverse’ if they only see cities, but fail to take notice of rural America,” he said.
Ball explained that the economic anxiety and frustration experienced by many of the region’s residents is warranted because the industries that elevated them have been hollowed out and communities feel abandoned by their political leaders. He discussed how decisions on policy impact the lives of everyday people, and that those who wish to eliminate coal production have failed to account for the role that coal plays in the culture, livelihood, and economic security of Appalachian families. In addition, he attributed the political shift in the region to failure amongst political leaders to communicate with residents and engage in a constructive dialogue.
Ball challenged leaders to fight against unfair stereotypes of Appalachians, lead the charge for expanding rural broadband access, diversify the economy, and incorporate the needs of coal communities into national organizing efforts. He concluded by asking the crowd, “My people are hurting. I ask where do they fit into your agenda? … Appalachia is not lost, Appalachia is worth fighting for!”
Jordan is currently pursuing a Masters of Business Administration at West Virginia University.