Sunday, August 3, 2008

History Has A Lesson For Today's World

What do Robber Barons and Custer have in common with this post? Read on and find out.

When I returned to school a few years ago to pursue my love of history and integrate it into my life's work, I was intent on concentrating on U.S. History. I had been raised at the knees of grandparents who versed me in our family history. Our family bible, from the early 19th century contained birth, marriage and death records dating back to colonial Pennsylvania. I was seeped in the history of the United States and the concept of Manifest Destiny. The bible chronicled our families own expansion, from Franklin County, Pa. to Peoria, Illinois, the Civil War and on to California. I grew up with the myth of the American Old West flowing in my veins.

As I settled into my grad study, I realized that American history was no longer divorced from the history of the World. Our experience as a nation has been influenced and has influenced World history profoundly in the past 400 years. I expanded my field of study to encompass the breadth of history and concentrated on making U.S. History relevant in the context of World history. Our classrooms today are filled with people who's ancestors did not fight in our Civil War, or even as Americans in the great wars of the 20th century. Making our history relate to them and giving them a sense of what America stands for, is my goal.

I was drawn to write about this today when I read Thomas Barnett's column, History has a lesson for today's world. Barnett writes that the last quarter century of 19th century American history has lessons that we should remember as we look to the future. He begins by looking at our recent past.

This enduring push for deregulation among the world's advanced economies, triggered initially by Ronald Reagan and Britain's Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s, has fueled globalization's rapid advance around our planet ever since. Globalization is --first and foremost -- the worldwide flow of investment capital.

And moves back to after the Civil War to find common ground.

A good historical analogy to this era is found in America's post-Civil War experience in rapidly integrating its trans-Mississippi West. You have to remember, these United States had started as a mere 13, then saw their numbers double in the early decades of the union, only to roughly double again in the years leading up to our Civil War and the half-century that followed.

Going back to the future, Barnett ends his column on a positive note.

Similar challenges confront us today in our ongoing attempts to administer our increasingly tumultuous global economy, only this time it's the more stable West absorbing the wild East. And yes, there's no shortage of imperious robber barons or radical insurgents to manage.

Intimidating? Sure.

But remember that we've been down this path before -- and thrived magnificently.

The changes in the past twenty five years when looked back upon one hundred years from now will probably be seen as important to the World, as we today, look back to the late 19th century as our coming together as a major nation. The fact that beyond opening up markets and stimulating economic empowerment to literally billions of people who were largely cut off, we have opened our own doors to new citizens who are further enriching our nation.

I will close by quoting an old friend, who when faced with an intimidating challenge would utter, "This is not my first rodeo" as he charged ahead.

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