And Me

Who is Roncevert? That would be me. I was named after a small town on the Greenbrier River in Southern West Virginia near  a point where my father proposed to my mother.  The town of Ronceverte, a French word meaning “Greenbrier,” was founded in 1775 and incorporated in 1882.  It has a rich history as a lumber and railroad town given its prime location within the expansive Greenbrier River Valley — the proposed eastern boundary for the Vandalia colony.

I grew up in Buckhannon, West Virginia located in the heart of the state, a midst the rolling mountains of the Appalachian Plateau, and at the western edge of the Allegheny Front.  In many ways we are the geographic and cultural pivot of West Virginia, linking the South and the North, and serving as a way point between the Eastern Panhandle and the Ohio Valley.  In other words, even though we eat pepperoni rolls and support the Steelers, we also maintain a slight drawl and enjoy sweet tea.  Yes, a coal mine runs underneath our high school and Anderson Cooper made a pit stop in town while the world was focused on the Sago Mine tragedy.

Hometown of Buckhannon

My Grandpa's Book

Buckhannon is also home to West Virginia Wesleyan College, where my grandparents met and my father studied. Following his service in the Army Air Corps, my Grandpa settled in Buckhannon and practiced medicine, traveling the back roads of Upshur County in his trusted Jeep, accompanied by his Collie dog (always named “Briar”).  My Dad and Mother followed this tradition serving as local doctors, although patients no longer pay with harvest surplus and house calls are out of fashion.  My Grandpa authored a book, with my Dad’s assistance, on the life of a West Virginia doctor.  I suppose COV is a continuation of this legacy of subjectively expounding on life’s experiences.

My family’s involvement in the United Methodist Church (UMC) played an important role in my upbringing.  My family has a long history of Methodist preachers and activists, and the church community was my second family growing up.  Through UMC, I traveled the globe from Moscow to Beijing to Singapore to Rio de Janeiro, wherever the church held its annual world conference or undertook mission trips.

This religious reverence is equally reflected on my Mother’s side of the family in the Philippines.  Today, we support a bible school in the Province of Romblon.  Other attributes from my Mom would include my interest in law and politics as my Grandfather in the Philippines was an attorney, judge and mayor in Romblon, and other relatives are involved in government.  My sister would likely suggest that my argumentative nature and bouts of self-promotion are strictly my own creation.  She may be right, but there is no doubt that any yarns I do tell ultimately trace back to the  hills of West Virginia.

My Playground

I grew up exploring my family’s farms in Upshur County – the “Wilderness” and the “Promised Land” – located respectively near the headwaters and midpoint of the Middle Fork River, which flows north and parallel to the peeks of Rich Mountain. The waters of the  Middle Fork feed into the Tygart River, a tributary of the Monongahela River, which joins the Ohio River at Pittsburgh.  It was on the modest banks of the Middle Fork that I was linked in my imagination and on the map to the Mississippi River adventures of Huck Finn.  Cutting trails and skipping rocks in the backwoods of West Virginia were my past times.

Later,  I had the unique and privileged opportunity to explore the state as part of John Kerry’s presidential campaign- from Shepherdstown in the east to New Cumberland in the north to Parkersburg in the west to Bluefield in the South.  I even made it through the “forgotten middle” of the state to towns such as Glenville, Sutton, and Webster Springs.  Campaigning at local festivals, in family living rooms, at labor halls, and in church basements, I gained a new found love and respect for my state and its people.

My interest in international relations and U.S. foreign policy stems from a variety of sources from my educational and professional background to my involvement in the U.S. political process.  Currently, I am an attorney in Washington, DC, who specializes in international law.  Although my firm is based in the U.S., I am involved daily with legal issues arising in the European Union, Middle East, Russia, the South Caucasus and Central Asia. As an international lawyer, a political activist, and earnest Mountaineer,  my goal is to join the dialogue concerning America’s future and interest in the international system.

COV represents a humble effort to meet other concerned citizens at the open space along the traditional foreign policy continuum from the far left to the extreme right.  We cannot take for granted the relationships and structural conditions that have sustained the leading position of the United States in world affairs since World War II.   We must recognize the dynamics of the global contemporary landscape, a context shaped by economic interdependence, institutionalized diplomacy, technological proliferation, urbanized populations, fluid borders, and competing governance models from secular democracy to political Islam.  My generation has the incredible opportunity to shape a new order for the 21st century.  As President Obama has stated, the future is now.

It may not be immediately evident how a simple upbringing in West Virginia is linked to the complicated issues of U.S. foreign policy and a globalized world.  President Truman was not only a leading architect of an international order that continues in part to this day, he was also a farmer from Missouri without a college degree.  Sound policy-making is not the sovereign province of Beltway think tanks, ivory tower academics, and professional politicians.  Sometimes the best insights into complex situations are found in common truths, plain lessons from the past, a Sunday sermon, family traditions, memories along a country road.  It is in this spirit, I approach each post on COV.  I hope you will join me!

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