'Hillbilly Elegy' Author Speaks in Belmont Co. - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

'Hillbilly Elegy' Author Speaks in Belmont Co.

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Best selling author J. D. Vance shared top billing with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine at the Belmont County Republicans 2017 Lincoln Dinner. His path from Kentucky and southern Ohio to service in Iraq as a Marine -- to success as an investment banker -- made him think his "American Dream" story needed telling. As he wrote, Vance realized something else.

"It's also a commentary on why we don't have as much of that 'American Dream' in certain parts of the country – most notably the parts of the country we find ourselves in right now – in Ohio and West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and so forth,” Vance said.

For the most part, Vance lived under his grandmother's care due to his mother's drug addiction. Attorney General DeWine sees this problem all the time.

"Candidly – we're not out in front of this problem,” DeWine said. He continued, “We've got to try to do everything we can so that people will not become addicted. Because once they're addicted, while there certainly is hope, and, people do make it – it certainly is very tough for them."

Vance realizes just how fortunate a life he has. The success of his first book still gives him pause. At Yale Law School, quite a number of his classmates viewed him with curiosity. Some had never known someone from the part of the nation from where Vance had come.

“’How much we expected people to read it?’ – the answer is, 'Not a whole lot.' You know, we thought it would do okay. About a million copies have been sold at this point,” he said. “So, the fact that the reception from 'The New York Times crowd' and from everyone else has been so positive has really surprised me."

Vance hopes a new foundation he just started will help children facing the problems he faced. He’s also wants to improve the lives of the people in the area where he was born.

“One of the things I discovered is that children who are born on the bottom, or even in the middle, are finding themselves stuck,” Vance said, talking about what he learned as he wrote his best-selling book. “They’re not climbing up the socioeconomic ladder, they’re not able to achieve their dreams in quite the same way that children in the past maybe were able.”

Vance turned reflective when asked what his future might bring. “’How can we provide support to so many of the families, so many of the children, who have been effectively orphaned?’” he asks rhetorically. “I’m also focusing on an effort to bring more venture capital, more investment into areas of the country that typically don’t have it.”

Vance continues. “If you think about where the main investment sources are directing themselves, it’s in California and New York. It’s in Massachusetts. And I think that there are a lot of good entrepreneurs, a lot of good businesses, in other parts of the country, that aren’t getting quite the same attention. I’d like to bring attention to those folks.”

Thoughts and ambitions along these lines went over quite well with the dinner crowd.

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