"The reason I'm going to this conference, I'm hoping people will walk away realizing people will have to do something different, to show up different in their daily lives, to engage with authority differently.
"People from every aspect of the state need to be involved, from coal miners to tree huggers. The people who are willing to sit down and work for a better future for West Virginia and not knowing what that future is and not coming in with an ulterior agenda about what they want -- those are the people I want to find."
His address will not just be a pep talk, he said.
"I plan on angering a few people. I'm probably going to leave a few people disheveled and frustrated -- that's the only way people change," Gensler said.
"We're not going to solve the problems of Appalachia at a three-day conference. This is a step on the path. Hopefully, we make a step, make a big step. That's the most we can hope for -- mobilize other people so they want to do this work in the state."
The challenges to change are not small ones.
"We're up against an entrenched culture of authority -- a very authoritarian culture," Gensler said. "It's not just the people in power. I honestly believe the people in power believe they are doing good. The tools they have are incapable to the task -- they are no longer good enough.
"And that's the root of the problem -- the knowledge they have isn't up to the task of solving our problems. We have to learn new ways of solving them -- the world has changed.
"Continuing to do the thing we've done in the past is no longer good enough -- from a governmental standpoint, from a business standpoint. The only thing we know is it's not good enough, that we have to do something different."
Want to go?
WHAT: Create West Virginia conference
WHEN: Thursday through Saturday
WHERE: Various venues in Richwood
DETAILS: The full conference, including meals, costs $349; single-day registration $149; special $99 pass for artists, K-12 teachers, students and VISTA/AmeriCorps volunteers. Visit createwv.org for more information. Jon Gensler speaks 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the Richwood High School Auditorium.
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.