As a college student I really enjoyed my history assignments. Being a photo guy, I of course dug deeply into my pictures, maps and diagrams. In my senior year at West Point I watched my company pass in review on parade on my first personally acquired camera. When I printed the photos I found myself looking at a present day image, which could be from the relatively distant past if were not for some modern building in the background.
I was soon looking at every historical image differently. Every image of a battle, congressional debate, city street, factory or farm had me replacing the face of yesteryear with one of ours. We could be those past people, if it was not for an accident of historical timing. This made me appreciate photography even more, and my own place in history.
The event also made me remember a quote I heard from President Ronald Reagan a few years earlier:
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."
(From the Quotations Page)
While our DNA will allow us to recreate moments as actors from the past with ease, certain important lessons such as the American concept of freedom only will be passed on and lived with through deliberate efforts. Putting myself into the shoes of soldiers, statesmen, explorers, industrialists, farmers and my forefathers getting off the boat only made this lesson easier to understand.