February 6, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 28°F

ColumnsElephant in the Room

Lessons from history

With a highly partisan Congress and a president known more for bombastic sound bites than political leadership, it can be difficult to find hope in our current government. It seems we live in an era dominated not by forging bipartisan consensus but by depicting political opponents as enemies. In a time like this, Americans can’t afford to wait for a political savior to get us back on track. It is incumbent on us all to engage in the political process. That starts by learning from history.

Unfortunately, history is often taught as names and dates to memorize for school exams. But it’s so much more than that: History is the story of people, the story of strength to overcome obstacles, the story of human accomplishment. Of course, it is also the story of suffering, oppression and division. But it is in history that we find lessons from our predecessors and take faith that we may overcome today’s challenges, no matter how daunting they may seem.

Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to historian and Pulitzer Prize–winning author David McCullough, who has spoken about studying history to understand who we are and where we are going. McCullough’s is a message of optimism, saying that even in the darkest of times, Americans can prevail. Our predecessors have done it, and we can, too. For all of the divisiveness present in our nation, we are still one people. We’ve had partisan differences since our founding, but we’ve proven that we can come together as one nation. Our views may be varied, but we can still find common ground. I have confidence in our motto, “E pluribus unum” — “Out of many, one. Out of many people with distinct ideas and voices emerges one nation.

This column has been my voice for the past year and a half. It has been my pleasure to offer a perspective on current events that you may not have encountered on campus. I’ve had the great fortune of receiving feedback from readers who may disagree with my opinions but have appreciated the chance to read a different point of view. That’s what this column has always been about. My parting words as the “Elephant in the Room”? Read history and try to understand views different from your own. We’ll be a better people and a stronger nation because of it.

Kyle Stewart can be reached at kstewart1@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @KyleStew107