Yesterday’s Treasures For Today’s Challenges

The question isn’t whether this is a valid topic, but rather from which mountain can it best be approached. Take the high road and you’ll see this sign: The past is the only sure thing in the world. Everything else is a possibility.

The past can’t be changed or eliminated. Good, bad, or indifferent, it’s here to stay. Indeed, the past is what drives the future. Technology does that by improving what we’re already doing and converting dreams into reality.

One of the best examples of that is the strategy Steve Jobs used to make Apple one of the world’s largest and most successful companies. Defying the conventional method of peering only into the future, Jobs studied Apple’s past, firmly believing he could more effectively determine the company’s future by identifying and carefully studying what had succeeded or failed and why. The rest is history.

How many executives have since adopted Jobs’ strategy is unknown, but the indelible mark it left on the corporate world will endure for a long time.

In sharp contrast, today’s youth receive relatively little instruction in history, so they enter the mainstream of our society with only a sketchy idea of what happened over the thousands of years leading to the present. As a result, they can hardly be blamed for supposedly innocent beliefs and actions that in reality can lead to troubles both now and in later years.

One need not go back very far to discover and lay bare any number of social, economic, and political disasters that having already plagued the world, must not be repeated.

The outcome of such events and developments forcefully demonstrates what can and does go terribly wrong. No nation or society is above reproach. They all make mistakes. The critical takeaway is to conclude what could have been and should have been.

Solid logic asks this question: What if history were to be taught at every grade level and carefully woven into every college curriculum? Such a strategy would provide students with at least a foundation upon which they could then properly evaluate what their decisions should be, whether in their private lives or professional pursuits.

That, however, can happen only if we realize the staggering positive potential that will arise from such a development.

At the same time, however, we must remember that the making of history is constant, that it begins with the passing of every instant of the present. Also, we’ve been an eyewitness to history for as long as we’ve been alive. Those in their twenties can remember what life was like before smartphones. Middle-aged people are able to tell others about the Berlin Wall, the Vietnam War, and the coming of the internet. For those sixty or older, memories bring to the surface such monumental developments as the war in Vietnam and man’s first landing on the moon.

If you would like to ease into this arena slow and easy, go to a large antique store and spend at least an hour relating to what you’ve witnessed or used during your lifetime.

What’s there will sharpen, strengthen, and emphasize how critically important it is for every American, especially our leaders and our youth, to be well versed in what has already happened, how far we’ve come.

No matter how dangerous or dazzling the future might appear to be, to know history is also to know how to put into play the lessons already learned.