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Why Does History Matter? — June 20, 2017

Why Does History Matter?

This is based off a speech I presented at a Pro-D Workshop, with ideas from <https://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/archives/why-study-history-(1998)&gt;.

M6467 Public Lectures Michael Wood plasma_tcm44-81344

We learn about history in schools and countless books are written about it. But historians can’t save lives like doctors, create more effective technology like engineers, or fill our pleasure time like singers and actors. While people can be attracted to history purely because of the information, most people live in the present and prepare for the future. Where does the past fit into this?

The past teaches us about people; it is a pattern of humanity’s actions and reactions. History offers us explanations and evidence for how people behave as a society. How can we understand war as a peaceful country, technological advancements, and the function of family in a community without history? We draw on the past to understand change, its factors, and how we respond to it. Only with this information are we able to deal with its effects and move forward.

In trying to reconstruct the past, we stumble across art, music, and stories of people who once lived. These sources of information can paint for us a different society and people. It also offers us new perspectives on religion, ethics, and politics.

History also gives people an identity; the feeling of being part of a larger story. Without memories, a person would lose their very identity, likewise, without history, we would lose their place in the world. The history of a country or race can bring people together. This information is very powerful in bringing about a sense of loyalty to one’s country and people, but can also lead to nationalism and racial prejudice.

Also, many courageous and intelligent men and women of history are examples for people today. These historical figures, often romanticized, give us an ideal to look up to. Sacagawea, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi; the list goes on of people who have shaken the world

So why does history matter? History is a powerful tool is bringing people together and analyzing our past and its patterns can help us make our decision for a better future. The past influences the present, and the present influences the future, so history also helps us understand the factors that lead to our world today, and how we can manipulate that to create a brighter future.



Ottawa — June 1, 2017


Ottawa is a beautiful city rich with history, heritage, and culture, all of which I was fortunate enough to experience and discover a month ago. In Ottawa I participated in a youth program called Encounters with Canada, which is a government-sponsored weeklong program open to Canadian high school students. Each week has a theme that focuses on different real-world occupations and opportunities, and participants sign up for a theme week based on their interests. The program presents the participants with the opportunity to learn about their chosen topic in a fun, interactive way, while also experiencing the city of Ottawa.

Encounters with Canada changed me and changed my life, and to date, possibly might have been the best week of my life. For a year I had been looking forward to this trip, then all of a sudden, it was happening. I remember that I was full of nervous and excited energy before departing the Vancouver International Airport. It was my first trip alone and I was going to a city on the other side of the country without my family and I didn’t really know what to expect, but I knew that it would be an incredible experience. It definitely was.

The theme week that I chose was Science and Ecology and the activities we did as a part of our week were quite fun and interesting. We spent a day at the St Lawrence River Institute catching fish and invertebrates, and then learning how to tag the fish and looking at the invertebrates under microscopes. We also tested water samples for acidity and temperature among other things and discovered some Ontario trees. The next day we travelled to Montebello, Quebec, for a wildlife safari at Parc Omega. I’ve never seen most of those animals in real life before and it was really cool to be so close to them. Speakers were also brought into the Terry Fox Canadian Youth Centre where we were staying and we learned about conservation, the environment, and wildlife.

One of the best things of the whole experience was meeting new people from all over the country and becoming friends with many of them. After one week I now have friends in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, more places in British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory. One thing I love to do is make friends with people who live in other places. Some of our lifestyles are so different and I found it very interesting to learn about them, it gives me a new outlook on my own life. For example, I always considered my school to be small at around six hundred students, and it is for the North Shore, but when I met people who lived in towns of two hundred it really gave me a new perspective on what small actually can be. The biggest difference I found to be was that of my North Vancouver coastal life compared to that of my friends in the prairies, many of whom live on ranches on the outskirts of small towns. A month later I am still discovering new things about my country from friends in other provinces, and even different regions of British Columbia.

Encounters with Canada is a bilingual program and this enables students to be exposed to both of the country’s official languages. It provides an opportunity to learn and improve one’s French or English communication skills. In my case it helped to improve my French, which I am proud to say because I love the French language and I want to become fluent in it. I made some new friends from Quebec and New Brunswick and spoke with them a bit in French, and now we keep in contact by texting in French.

One of the biggest sponsors of the program is Historica Canada, so on the last day we did activities involving Canadian Heritage Minutes, watching existing ones and coming up with ideas for new ones. We visited museums, monuments, and other important buildings. The first day we toured the Parliament Building and learned about its history and the history of our government. Another historical aspect of Encounters was Wednesday’s Peace Module, when we listened to Canadian veteran Major Wayne McCulloch speak about his peacekeeping career and then after we went to Beechwood Cemetery for a candle-lighting ceremony. Being there amongst many of the fallen soldiers who sacrificed their lives fighting for Canada in World War made me feel something I can’t explain, a sense of sadness and regret, but also thankfulness and patriotism. It is a deeper feeling, a more meaningful awareness that can’t come from learning about the wars from a textbook.

Travelling to different places and meeting people from other regions of Canada is a great way to learn about the country. Ottawa has so much historical and current importance to the development of our country. I certainly learned more about Canada, especially in regards to politics and culture, by visiting and touring the city in person. I am very thankful that I had an opportunity to participate in such a valuable program like Encounters with Canada because it helped me gain appreciation for our large and wonderfully diverse country and its heritage. The best advice that I can give to someone who would like to learn more about our country, or really any country, is to get out and meet new people and see new places. The experience is life changing and eye opening, and one that you will remember forever. It also helped me feel more connected to my fellow Canadians and to my country for having had this incredible experience



By Siobhan