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Why we need to know our history and observe a day of remembrance

The first day of American history class in high school, my instructor asked the question, "Why do we study history?" At that point, many of us had not a clue why we should wade through such ancient and irrelevant data.

The first day of American history class in high school, my instructor asked the question, "Why do we study history?" At that point, many of us had not a clue why we should wade through such ancient and irrelevant data.

Who cares?

In answer to that question, we were given several reasons for the value of history. Among them were -- to better understand how we got to where we are today. Another was -- that with similar circumstances and given hindsight, we might make wiser decisions.

On the latter point we might, indeed, be humbled in that it would appear sometimes our craniums are impenetrable by truth. Out of such an observation, no doubt, was borne the old adage, "What we learn from history, is that we learn nothing from history."

How often we repeat the same mistakes.

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There is, perhaps, more room for mental progress on the first point. Did we just fall out of a cloud and land in the collective station in life we find ourselves, or were there certain decisions and actions that orchestrated our arrival?

These are invaluable questions for us to ask today as we come to another Memorial Day. This is a day of remembrance, a day to pause and consider how blessed we are in this country. More specifically, we ought to reflect on the cost that has been paid to preserve the freedoms we enjoy every day. Did the fact that we can freely speak, assemble, publish, worship, bear arms, travel and be secure in our person, homes, papers, effects and property just happen?

No, these rights were purchased in blood and indelibly stamped with the value of the lives of our servicemen -- and women -- who gave their last full measure of sacrifice. Their lives were given to oppose tyrants, dictators and evil systems under which none of our freedoms could be. As we bow in remembrance of this great price paid, we more clearly understand how it is that we are privileged to live in the greatest country on Earth.

One of the most enduring traits of the human condition is that we forget. Ah, how short our memory, how shallow our devotion, how fleeting our focus. How we do need a memorial -- a day of remembrance -- lest we forget. And there is probably something we can all do to teach this valuable lesson of history to those younger, who follow behind.

Jim Hofsommer is a resident of Markham.

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