In 1897, Francis Pharcellus Church, editor of the New York Sun, penned what is perhaps the most famous reassurance of all time. "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," he told little Virginia O'Hanlon, who had written to him concerned that her friends did not believe in Santa.
Church commented on "the skepticism of a skeptical age." In spite of the times, he encouraged Virginia to have faith. His words of reassurance have reminded generations of readers, "The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see."
Some might say that we, too, live in a skeptical age - that the trials and tribulations of these long, hard years of the Great Recession have left us incapable of believing in anything but the concern we see in the faces of our families, friends and neighbors. And these surely are challenging times. It seems hard not to give in to the naysayers - to throw in the proverbial towel, like little Virginia's friends, and say that Nevada's best days are behind us ... that the age of possibility has passed. But, as Virginia might say if she were a teenager today, that is not how we roll in Nevada.
Like Virginia O'Hanlon and Francis Church, I still believe in things we may not see around us every day, but which continue to live on in the Silver State. In my first year as Nevada's governor, I have been privileged to see firsthand the evidence of Nevadans' heroism, compassion and faith in one another. I have seen our communities respond to tragedy with strength and grace. I have seen state workers do more with less ... families solve problems they never expected to confront ... children rise above unique challenges to learn and excel. I have seen political figures come together on issues that tend to divide us. And I have seen men and women in uniform serve to the point of ultimate sacrifice.
Above all, I have seen that the promise of opportunity remains unbroken here in the Silver State. Despite our challenges - indeed, perhaps because of them - Nevadans continue to believe in what might be possible. They continue to take risks and invest in growing our economy from the ground up. They continue to perform cutting-edge research at our colleges and universities, and to teach children that their future is bright. They provide services to those in need, and rush to the aid of those who suffer. They are, as I like to say, the Nevada family.
A little girl, not much older than Virginia O'Hanlon, came to see me the other day. She is a student at an elementary school not far from here. When she came to my office with her parents, she was prepared with research and personal anecdotes about her concerns. She bravely sat in the same place as politicians and business leaders, foreign dignitaries and members of my Cabinet - and her eyes sparkled with possibilities. She spoke from notes, but she also spoke from her heart. I could not help but be reminded of the childlike faith that moved Francis Church to write his editorial, more than 100 years ago. When all is said and done, it is faith that lights our way, no matter how dark the path.
On this Christmas Day, recognizing that our collective faith originates in different places, I hope the Nevada family will come together in prayer and reflection, strengthened by the knowledge that our future still shines as bright as the eyes of a little girl or boy who believes.
From the Sandoval Family to yours, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!