Whitesburg KY
Mostly cloudy
Mostly cloudy

O’Reilly’s words upset student, 15

In an on-air discussion

with ABC News journalist

Diane Sawyer concerning

Sawyer’s recent ’20/20′ segment

on poverty in Appalachia,

Fox News commentator

Bill O’Reilly described

Appalachia as a hopeless region

whose residents would

be better off moving elsewhere.

Letcher County Central

High School student

Austin Johnson responded to

O’Reilly with the following


Dear Mr. O’Reilly:

My name is Austin Johnson. I am a 15-year-old honor student at Letcher County Central High School in Whitesburg, Ky. I have been an honor student since the fourth grade. I am considered by many as being a very intelligent, charismatic, self-disciplined, young conservative with big goals waiting to be achieved. I know the way people away from this region view us and some things may be true, but poverty like ours can be found all over the world, not just here in Appalachia.

Many young students, including myself, are working hard to try to change the stereotypes about our region that have been placed in the minds of many people all around the world for many years. All of the young people here are not ignorant and certainly not hopeless, as you made it out to be on your show. I find great offense in your words. I not only excel in academics, I also have a great passion and love for music. With my loving and caring parents, God, and other family members, I can and will achieve anything I set out to do, may it be in music or academics.

If you would come to Letcher or any of the surrounding counties and sit and talk to the people here you would find that most are proud, hard-working, God-fearing, respectful, and normal people who are trying their hardest to make a good life for themselves and their children. I am not saying there aren’t some people who are less fortunate, because there are too many, I believe, but they still have faith and hope in God and love for others.

Some of the things we have to face in Appalachia is tragic, but I would rather face the challenges here than those of other parts of America. I never fear getting car jacked, shot for having the wrong color of clothing on, or for being in the wrong part of town. Neither me nor my sisters have to fear being abducted and raped. I don’t feel the pressure of gang involvement or pressure to buy, sell, or take drugs, as many of the children face in our inner cities of America.

Mr. O’Reilly, I know you are entitled to your own opinions and, like myself in this wonderful land in which we live, have the right to express them. I just wanted to let people know that I love my Appalachia and that it is full of hope.

Please don’t sit in New York City and say that “Appalachia is hopeless” until you come here and see the people, old and young alike, who are so full of hope.
Letcher County
Central High School

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