In all that we do and say history is present, history is everywhere. We see it in the classroom, in the people we interact with, in the social norms of our society, and in ourselves. It is the driving factor of the decisions that we make whether we realize it or not, and it can determine where we are, where have have been, and where we aspire to go.
History 110 WI (Leadership Concentrated) the “American Experience” is a course required for my Leader Advancement Protocol, and to fill the requirements for the Leadership Minor I am pursuing. On the first day of class our professor Dr. Stephen Jones passed out the course syllabus and on the top was this:
“The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” William Faulkner
These 8 words set the course for my entire experience in our class for that semester, and shifted my outlook on history in it’s entirety. Often I found myself disinterested in history studies because I felt it was irrelevant to myself and my life, but Dr. Jones helped me realize how selfish that thinking truly is.
History is the basis for our lives today, and without understanding where we have come from as an individual, as a nation, and as a society, it is impossible to see the potential in where we can go.
For this course we read two books; Major Problems in American Immigration History by Ngaio Gjerde and Postethnic America by David A. Hollinger.
Major Problems in American Immigration History described in great detail the hardships the United States faced as a nation when dealing with the issue of immigration regulation. Learning about the struggles immigrants endured just to become apart of a country that I was simply born into truly puts into perspective how fortunate I have been in my lifetime.
Our capstone project for this book was to pick an individual that immigrated to the United States and how they demonstrated and lived out personal leadership qualities. For my presentation I researched Albert Einstein and what he, as an immigrant in our country, contributed to the betterment of the nation.
Of course many know of the contributions Einstein made to the scientific community, but he contributed so much more to us than his research findings. He was a humanist, an advocate for basic human rights, a problem solver, and a voice for those who did not have one.
In 1940 at the World’s Fair in New York Einstein spoke out on immigration in his speech, “Why I Am American.” One of the most powerful messages I took from his speech was this:
“As for the immigrants, they are the only ones to whom it can be accounted a merit to be Americans. For they have had to take trouble for their citizenship, whereas it has cost the majority nothing at all to be born in the land of civic freedom.”
Einstein put into perspective how much immigrants were willing to give up to be apart of this country, and that they deserve to be treated as such just as much as those who were born into it.
He exemplified a variety of qualities that every leader today should strive for. He was an advocate for his own beliefs, challenged viewpoints, developed new strategies for old problems, and kept the people at the forefront of all that he did. When divulging deeper into Einstein’s life, past the scientific contribution’s he made, I found someone who embodies a true leader. He aided in the creation of our nation’s backbone, no matter his original origin.
To access my entire presentation on Albert Einstein’s leadership contributions, click here.
When reading Postethnic America we discussed the ideas of the future, and how we can evolve as nation on the issues of race and identity. This book opened my ideas to how controversial the idea of race identification was, and what truly determines what one’s race is. Before reading, I had never considered the possible discrepancies in what one defines themselves as and how it can shape an individuals future and opportunity. This is something I would like to continually expand my knowledge in hopes that one day race will no longer come into question, and we start identifying people by their character rather than by their genetics.
Overall, I feel that this course challenged my ideas of what it means to be an American. I have a greater appreciation for our history, for our immigration, and for all that we have overcome as a nation.
History is not dead, it is live indeed and all around us, all you have to do is start looking.