Good things in the Old North State

Published 12:01 am Thursday, February 2, 2012

Jackie Bray and Bruce Cochran aren’t celebrities. They aren’t super-scientists, political activists or military heroes. They’re just two normal Americans who happened to end up on the guest list to sit in the first lady’s box at the State of the Union Address last week.

The honor isn’t handed out randomly. Looking at the other names and bios on the guest list, mixed in with the scholar and innovator, astronaut and politician, are the student, teacher, cancer survivor and retiree. They are a handpicked collection of Americans, from all walks of life, with their own stories to tell.

We should be proud of Bray’s and Cochran’s stories, not only because they are North Carolinians, but because Bray represents the recent strides made in N.C. education — the young woman who was seated to Michelle Obama’s right is the product of a partnership between businesses and community colleges, a partnership meant to strengthen and maximize workforce development strategies, job training programs, and job placements. She went to Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, but the same job-training programs that ensured Bray a job? They exist right here in our own schools.

And Cochran — Cochran revived an old Carolina tradition: the manufacture of furniture in our state. In 1997, his family’s furniture company was sold, the new owners moved manufacturing to China, and it’s since gone out of business. Cochran decided to reopen at the company’s original site in Lincolnton, “insourcing” 80-some jobs and expecting to grow.

So why they were singled out from the other 300 million people in this country? Because they’re average Americans. Average Americans doing good things right here in the Old North State.