I didn’t just fall into my love of history. My parents had some part, teaching me about my Indian heritage through language, music, and dance, and instilling in me an awareness that we all come from somewhere. But it wasn't until I took a course called "Applied History" in high school that I realized history was more than just a given interest -- it was something I actually love.
A few years ago I was given the opportunity to speak before a group of history teachers about that course. My talk was part of a keynote address by my history teacher, a man who inspired countless students to acknowledge the value of history in the world around us.
I chose to focus on what I learned in that course -- how learning about the tangible fabric of history impacted each of my senses and opened my eyes to real life, to a world beyond the words in a textbook.
But my speech was just as much about the teacher who chose to spend his career inspiring others, not just through the coursework, but also by his actions, attitude, and passion.
It's hard to believe that those lessons are almost fifteen years old, and that my teacher, Jim Percoco, is retiring after over thirty years in the profession. His career is an inspiration to me because considering why history is important helps me do my job every day.
Here's a quick passage from my aforementioned speech:
The course opened up a sixth sense: you know, the one that allows us to see dead people and make them live again. This is the sense that lets us see the past as something tangible and worthwhile, something with meaning, and worth saving. Something with relevance not only to pass a test or to have random facts in our heads, but really to understand why we live the way we live, and that the past really defines our present.
I love history because it gives me a vision for the past, the present, and the future -- a vision that's complex, but also something I can see myself being a part of. I wasn't the most confident kid. I struggled, as most teenagers do, with the trials and triumphs of becoming an adult. Yet seeing myself as a part of a broader continuum and recognizing -- through our travels to historic sites and subsequent conversations on history -- that an individual can make a difference affected who I've become.
What inspired you to love history? Was it an individual, a book, a class, a field trip, or something else?
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