I’ve always liked history. When I was about 9 years old, aside from the TGIF lineup on ABC, my favorite television show was Battlefield, a documentary series on PBS that featured original black-and-white footage from World War II. I watched religiously.
History lies somewhere between the tangible and the abstract. Some things we know, some we can only speculate about based on other information. I can hold my grandfather’s dogtags from World War II in my hand. I can remember a telephone conversation I had a few years ago with a member of the 101st Airborne Division who jumped into Normandy and was soon taken prisoner by the Germans. My connection to him: I own a few items that previously belonged to someone who jumped into France with him. (I collect World War II memorabilia.) It was a conversation I’ll never forget.
History is so much more than just remembering dates like April 9, 1865 – the day Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, ending the Civil War. It’s about understanding people. It’s about understanding relationships – why those people quarrel or ally together. It’s about understanding quarrels, those of nations and those of individuals; those for rights and those for desires. It’s about understanding the alliances: why countries get along, why individuals get along.
That’s what’s so great about history. It all relates. Those who say history doesn’t matter aren’t taking this into consideration. Understanding events of the past helps put things into perspective and helps us understand and deal with events in our own lives.
Maybe you’re wondering why a soon-to-be professional journalist is harping on about the past. Sure, at its core, journalism is about defending democracy and informing the public. But it’s also about history. Reporting on it. Making it come to life. Recording and preserving it. One hundred years from now, it’s likely few will remember my name. But people will still remember events that shaped the world. Things like the shooting at Northern Illinois University, something I had a part, albeit a small one, in reporting and preserving. I hope I’ll have the chance to report on more events that shape our world.
Our personal histories are important too. Past experiences make us who we are and shape who we’re to become. It’s interesting too how we tend to remember the good times a little better than they were. We often romanticize events, forgetting the bad parts as time goes on. That’s probably why looking back at my time at Kent State, I have more memories of good times than bad. Realistically, they’re probably at least equal – it might even tip the other way. But I don’t remember the difficult task of adjusting to college as well as all the great times I had freshman year. I look back at the weekends and look past the stress of boring classes with much-too-difficult exams. I look past the people with whom I didn’t get along and remember those friends and professors (and the few of whom were both) who made college enjoyable.
In a few weeks, I’m going to Reading, Pa., for an internship. I’ve never even been to the city. I don’t know anyone there. It’s scary, but it’s just part of life. Hopefully it’ll be a great experience. I suppose there’s a chance it won’t be – no reason to think so, but who knows? Either way, it will become part of my history.
And Gettysburg is only an hour and a half away.
Tyrel Linkhorn is a senior newspaper journalism major and news editor for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]