I believe in the power of history. It all started in grade school where my elementary history classes had the power to shape my life-long beliefs. I know now that the history taught there was rather skewed. Textbooks favored democracy and “the American way.” Lessons were planned to instill certain beliefs in children and in my case they succeeded. I do have a great love for my country and although I may not always agree with all things dubbed American, it shows the power of what I was taught. To have pride in my country and my home, to have appreciation for its beauty and its industry, this is what my history classes taught me and I still have those values today.
There’s also oral history, those family stories that are passed on from one generation to the next. This history no one can really prove. It may just be myth but if the stories came this far, there had to be truth to them at some point, right? Take for example one of my family stories. When I reached high school I learned about how immigrants were sometimes forced to change their names upon arriving in America. I’m of Irish descent and I was convinced that our family’s last name at some point had been O’Ryan. I thought probably my ancestors had dropped the O-apostrophe in order to blend. When I asked my dad if this was true and he said he bet it was, somewhere down the line we had been O’Ryan’s. Months later when I brought it up at my grandmother’s apartment she replied, “Oh no dear, it’s always been Ryan.”
“Are you sure, Mom?” my dad had asked. “I thought I heard different.” But nonetheless, there it was. A little piece of my family history, dead, and I actually missed it. That small story had given me something to connect to. Without it I didn’t have much else to go by when it came to my great ancestors. History has that kind of power. Weather it’s a family legend or the story of a country’s founding fathers, it gives us that feeling of connection to each other and to our past. History has the power to teach us as well. If our world leaders today paid more attention to history, they might not be so doomed to repeat it. I truly believe our history has that much power.
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