States of the Nation: From West Virginia to Kentucky - OZY | A Modern Media Company

States of the Nation: From West Virginia to Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky
SourceGlenn Allison/Getty

States of the Nation: From West Virginia to Kentucky

By OZY Editors


Because states are America’s true laboratories of innovation.

By OZY Editors

Join us as we continue our States of the Nation tour, where we’re spending up to a week in each state to highlight the political innovators and innovations emerging from each one. Next up: the Bluegrass State — Kentucky — where surprising changes in education are underway and that we’ll be exploring this week.

In Louisville, a data-driven mayor is attempting to raise his hometown into a rising star city of the Midwest. Meanwhile, rural residents are fighting back against the 1,200 tons of radioactive waste dropped off in their backyards — part of a national trend as states contend with a noxious network of laws surrounding the environmentally controversial mining process known as fracking.

If you missed it, our first week on the road started in West Virginia, where frost-covered hilltops give way to snow-flecked trees in America’s second-most forested state. We met with the billionaire coal mogul whose résumé looks a lot like that of Donald Trump, though he claims his presidential doppelgänger “is probably a little bit more egotistical.” We also explored some of the county-by-county efforts of everyday citizens who are grappling with change while preserving their communities in a state beset by forces of poverty, addiction and unrest. Capping our coverage was a visit with the progressive activist who is trying to change all of this, calling into question our cherished ideals of American progress and capitalism — and, perhaps, setting the stage for her to become the Hillary Clinton of Appalachian values.

From morning breakfasts at Tudor’s Biscuit World to dive-bar nights of Mountaineers corrupting the lyrics of “Sweet Caroline” with expletives aimed at a neighboring rival — Pitt! — West Virginians have an uncommon sense of place and community. That native love is not without its faults though. Too often, some activists say, it encourages a system where folks ignore the signs of economic malaise and environmental danger. Yet possible solutions are gaining ground, and change gradually follows in their wake.

What are the issues and ideas in your state that have caught your eye? Who are the people we should be watching? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below, or email us at and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for regular updates from this special series. 

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