Why owning your history matters!
All of us benefit from inheritances we did not choose and cannot change. Growing up involves deciding which part of the inheritance you want to claim as your own, and how much you have to pay for the rest of it. This is as true for nations as it is for individuals.- Susan Neiman
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. – Maya Angelou
The United States is a great country whose ideas and example have been transforming. Nevertheless, we have not always lived up to our ideals, and today too many Americans are divided.
Division occurs because, as a country, we do not share a common history. Indeed, we are in denial because of historical skeletons –including the worst aspects of inequality, discrimination and injustice based on race, gender, ethnicity, LGBT status, or other differences. Our divisions and denial mean we have no clear path to a better future as a more united country. The American “new birth of freedom” that Lincoln called for at Gettysburg still remains before us. “Own Your History” objectively looks at all our history, good and bad, to educate and empower a new generation of citizens and leaders and advance a national healing process.
Know this: You are part of American history and you can shape the future by making a positive difference in your community, in our country, in the world.
Why do Americans need reconciliation?
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.’-Martin Luther King Jr.
Despite real progress, we continue to have historical skeletons that deeply divide us as a country. Denial of the skeletons extends and deepens this division. It means we keep repeating the worst of our past – as Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston showed us again. And, issues of discrimination involving women, immigrants, Native Americans, and LGBT persons, remain significant.
Reconciliation is needed to bring the country together, to heal the division between those of us in denial and those haunted by why these skeletons still exist.
Reconciliation is empowering! It allows us to go beyond historical fears and move forward together as a new community. It promotes justice and frees us to address our country’s other pressing needs.
What is America’s Unfinished Business?
It is for us . . . to be dedicated here to the unfinished work … — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.-Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
We have not answered the calls by President Lincoln and Dr. King to bring about full inclusion and equality of opportunity for all Americans. America’s promise is not a reality for many Americans. Today, in our schools, workplaces, politics, and communities, human differences—particularly race and ethnicity—too often serve as a basis for discrimination, injustice and inequality.
How will “owning your history” make an impact?
People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them.- James Baldwin
Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.- George Santayana
When we “own” our history, we see it objectively and together take responsibility for our all our common past–and we stand ready to embrace the future. Ignoring our history, or accepting only partial or filtered history, means we will keep repeating the same mistakes—old fears among groups in society remain powerful, and long-standing divisions and injustices continue.
Truly “owning” our history means we have a deeper, shared, objective understanding of all our history, good and bad. That ownership is transforming for students and adults because we face the skeletons, end denial, and can move on. That happened in the 1960s, but the progress is incomplete. By now “owning” all our common history, we can solve problems and not repeat our past. The Reconciliation Education Project, Inc. is about objectivity, honesty, accountability, responsibility, justice—and growing up as a country.
How do you teach leadership?
Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.-Edward de Bono
Being a leader is being aware and recognizing that you are the generator for everything in your life. Leadership is the willingness to know where you’re going whether anybody else goes along or not –you’re still going to go.– Stephen Bowman
Leadership arise from empowerment and creativity, which are explicit parts of day-to-day learning in our approach. As ably demonstrated by our entrepreneurs, teachers and artists, creativity has always been at the heart of the American story.
The Course is a launching experience for individual creativity, especially through coming to own both one’s life and our history. Each section includes leadership and personal development exercises and projects. The Course looks at history through an experiential approach (e.g., historical role-playing, debates) that puts the student inside the realities of the American past. In this way, students can gain understanding of the lives and choices of particular men and women at that time and consider leadership at that time and place—and thus how to be leaders now.
When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending. -Brené Brown