History

the (near) final tally

I wonder what big historic moments look like when it’s staring at you from 3 inches away…

We Americans are enthralled by the concept of history, of memory, and how they intertwine. The memory of a moment that gains importance with each passing year as we consider our mortality. There can be nothing more biased than memory. Two people may see the same thing happening, but as you hear them both them recall it, they could sound like two completely different events. And they could both be right. Memory is the standard by which our identity is forged and understood. “Where were you when…” is a question posed by those to communicate shared memories. Those shared memories become the collective American identity. “Where were you during the last episode of M.A.S.H?” “Where were you when 9/11 happened?” Where were you when the Red Sox won the World Series?” Without our memory, history is simply the ether that dissipates from our minds as we awake from a dream.

I remember when there was a push to replace President Franklin D. Roosevelt with President Ronald Reagan on the dime. When, I heard this, I didn’t really understand why.  I enjoyed history growing up, and I’ve come to understand President Roosevelt as one of, if not the, most important President of the 20th century. He presided over the nation through the Great Depression and he led American forces through World War 2. To me, those accomplishments alone deserve recognition befitting of currency. I’ve come to understand President Reagan as a man who brought optimism to a country in need of a positive outlook. He led American diplomatic efforts through the last spurts of the Cold War, in which the United States was the last nation standing. After considering these two important presidencies, I figured out why I didn’t understand why they wanted to make that switch. President Reagan’s impact on our nation may not be fully understood so recently removed from his tenure. The fine wine of history has not yet fully fermented on President Reagan’s legacy. We can most certainly say the same for President Roosevelt, but at the very least a few generations have passed. Those passing generations have given their perspective on the American memory and have perpetuated the notion that Roosevelt’s enduring mark on our nation is just as lasting as his indelible silhouette on my 2nd favorite coin.

This Sunday and today, we will most likely be witnessing an important and historic moment in American history. And what should we say at this moment; one in which media coverage and consternation will undoubtedly and simultaneously hyperbolize and understate its gravity? A moment, despite on what side you might land on, can significantly change how Americans live their lives? As a student of American politics, I feel incredibly lucky to be around during this period of time. Reading through books on the formation of this great nation, I’ve always wished that I could see the faces of the men and women deep in thought as they decided the trajectory of our nation given their next decision. With the recent events in Washington D.C., we were able to see upfront what those men and women were thinking and doing as they each made their decision on what path our nation will take. Yet, as an American- who will be proud of this nation despite who we have elected or not elected to represent and lead us; despite the recent hangups of a boom-and-bust economy; despite the power of the forces who would destroy democracy for a bigger bottom line- I am anxious with excitement. I feel as if I am living in the most dynamic time in our history: enigmatic and interesting leaders; collective action and demonstration; anger and logic; war and peace. I am anxious because the ride is so uncertain and the scenery can be quite frightening. However, I am excited- because that scenery is democracy in action. I am excited because the system can still work. I am excited because even though you can always get what you want, sometimes you get what you need. I am excited because change, even if it’s incremental and piecemeal, is important and can happen. To be a part of this living history, to be a part of the American memory, is a privilege that comes with being a citizen. And over these past few days, I couldn’t be prouder to be an American.

-Springfield, IL

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2 Comments on “History”

  1. Jan Says:

    i second that motion….

  2. Amy Says:

    on monday, we had a string quartet from the chicago symphony orchestra perform at burr. they played america, the beautiful, and i almost teared up thinking about the passing of the bill. yay america!


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