Pearl Harbor Day offers opportunity to appreciate changing world
Fifty-seven years ago today, Japanese military leaders personally invited the United States to join a war. A raging world war, actually. The early-morning assault on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor was a shocking event most young Americans will never be able to comprehend. As with many other pieces of history, the reality of Peal Harbor and the effects of its attack may be lost to the ages unless young Americans work to preserve their national heritage.
The global setting has radically changed since 1941. Americans no longer fear bomb-bearing balloons floating across the Atlantic Ocean. The greatest U.S. concerns regarding Japan center upon the island nation's economy and how the ally's finances might impact American markets.
Americans born after the second World War have never felt a threat to their national sovereignty -- unless you count a small, Mideast country banning American weapons inspectors.
The world -- and America's place in it -- is starkly different than it was when most Aggies' parents or grandparents were growing up. Unfortunately, this means many young people take their blessings for granted.
It is sometimes surprising how quickly events disappear from the public consciousness. Although most Aggies were dramatically affected by the 1986 Challenger disaster, within the next few years the University will begin admitting freshmen who do not even remember the incident.
Too often, however, people consider an event less real or less important if they cannot personally remember it or did not feel any direct impact. It is an unfortunate mistake.
History studies normally rely on texts presenting world events through a detached narrative. With this view, much of history's value is lost. Instead, the memories and experiences of individuals who lived through historic events should be collected and cherished. The emotions that accompanied major moments in history would be recorded as well. Just as important as the events in America's history are the feelings of Americans who experienced those moments first hand.
Sure Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon, but it is also important to remember millions of Americans watched every second of the unfolding drama. The nation came to a virtual stop when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. An event today the subject of conspiracy theories and ridicule deeply impacted the entire nation only a few decades ago.
In a sense, the emotions make these events so significant. This nation is defined by the experiences that brought the country together. Attitudes and policies are shaped by those experiences.
Unlike many of these shaping events, Americans recognize Pearl Harbor Day each year. This provides an opportunity to look back at this event and the era in which it occurred. Younger generations rarely take advantage of such opportunities, though they should.
Older Americans can offer a truly unique view of history to anyone willing to spend the time to listen. The valuable asset of recalled experiences will be lost eventually.
Pearl Harbor Day provides a good excuse for learning more about how the event affected Americans. Most Aggies know someone who lived through World War II who remembers hearing about the surprise attack. Ask them where they were when they heard the news. Ask them what they felt. Ask them how the world has changed.
The answers may be surprising. You may find a greater appreciation for the current world situation -- a world of security and opportunity.
Dave Johnston is a senior mathematics major.