Tobacco and North Carolina were nearly synonymous for the better part of the 20th century and my parents both grew up on tobacco farms, my mother in Surry County and my father in Jones County.
Both excelled in high school. Both were first generation college students, yet their paths to college were different.
My father was 1 of 11 children with older bothers and sisters blazing the trail off the farm to college, all motivated and encouraged by my grandparents, neither of whom were formally educated beyond 8th grade. He attended Davidson College and later UNC-Chapel Hill earning degrees Law and Public Health.
My mother was 1 of 2 and only made it to college at the suggestion and urging of a high school guidance counselor without whose counsel she probably would have graduated from high school and remained on the farm. She attended Guilford College majoring in education but would later work for the prison system and then become a computer programmer and database guru.
While these paths to higher education are very different they reflect the seed, root, and soul of what it is to be a North Carolinian, seeing potential and sowing it the fertile soil of education.
What we must not lose in North Carolina is the belief that this potential is in every child and that we are morally bound to keep the soil fertile, to invest our blood, sweat, and tears in the future, and tend the earth from which we ourselves emerged.
Roots to fruits.