For many people, history is the story of great men. Political, military, and economic heroes have long inspired chronicles about their extraordinary lives. If you like political, military, and economic history then all that attention is well placed. If, however, you feel like you have nothing in common with those esteemed men, and will never achieve greatness in your lifetime, then you probably do not care how many books are written about them.
Regardless of a person’s fame or infamy, notoriety or anonymity we all share basic facts. Many people are not interested in basic facts about historical figures, but they are interested in basic facts about themselves. The first assignment in my classes and the assignment I now give you; is to think about yourself and why you are the way you are.
What are five basic facts that have shaped your life, and why are they so important? You have them, I have them, and George Washington had them. For some the incidents of life are positive, for others they are negative. There is joy, sadness, accomplishment, and tragedy, but they all play a role in bringing us to where we are today. What are yours? Be honest with yourself.
I encourage you to write them down. Write a paragraph (three to five sentences) explaining each of your five facts and why they are important. It is a simple exercise, but you may be surprised at how just a few facts can thoroughly encapsulate your life. The facts change over time. What was important a decade ago may no longer be as important, and what happens tomorrow may change everything, but it still comes down to basic facts. Just like in history, what happened matters, but why it happened and why it is significant, is more important to understanding the past.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. Childs is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.