History is a tough thing. There are so many adages. History repeats itself. If you don’t remember history you are doomed. We have a history together.
You may or may not know, but I am on the board of the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lots of people say it’s “an honor” to do this or that, but to me this is an amazing privilege and opportunity to do something good for some people, and my country.
James Altucher and other popular bloggers say you need to bleed a little when you blog. Maybe I haven’t done enough bleeding. But I’ll bleed a little here.
I hooked up with the museum via a friend of mine who is also on the board. Funny thing is, I have been interested in World War Two my entire life. I read, no devoured, books about it. In fifth grade, I gave a speech about it in front of my class.
You know those tests that you take to figure out what the hell you want to do with your life in high school? I took one. In the top three things on the list for me was “cadet at a military academy”.
My first college: US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Got a basketball scholarship to go there. Dropped out after Beast Barracks. One of the more stupider things I have done in my life. As the car drove away from the Academy, I knew I had made a huge mistake that in some ways I have not forgiven myself for today.
Instead of failing, I created failure. Big difference. Fast forward 30 years to today.
This opportunity came up for me in my life. I serve on a board with some really neat people. But you don’t have to serve on the board to help. Keep reading, you’ll see how. I need some answers.
One of the things that history museums have difficulty doing is connecting with the future. How do you do it?
I truly believe that of all the conflicts that the world has seen among man, World War Two was one of, if not the most important. Even though it happened seventy years ago, it affects the kids that are going to be born tomorrow. How do you make it alive for today? What would you teach them? How do you make a museum relevant for them? How do you get them to interact with history and get the word out? I don’t know the answers. I leave it to you, the reader, to give me suggestions.
What do you think?
As a board member, I get the chance to hear stories. Truly, you cannot believe some of the things that I have seen and heard. Not necessarily gross battle stories. We hear those. But more stories of hope. I get the chance to touch history that few get the opportunity to do. I met a women that was an integral part of the French Resistance. I got to meet Walt Ehlers. I took him on the floor of the CME unannounced and trading stopped. People hugging him. A genuine outpouring of emotion. When he gets to Chicago, I get the chance to spend some time with him. How lucky is that? But, more importantly, how can other people(you) get the chance to spend time with a person like Walt without him being there? Without being able to interact and touch him? How can they be touched by Walt? Or, their great grandparents may have been soldiers that didn’t earn medals. How can they appreciate the sacrifice, and what they did even though those citizen soldiers are no longer walking among us?
I ask you-what about today? What would you do? How would you communicate the story, and more importantly, how would you engage people?
The other ghost that always dances in the background is the almighty dollar. These things don’t run for free. Museums need to raise money to meet their budgets and carry out their missions.
How do you engage people across the world, and raise money to support the museum, all at the same time? Raising money is tough because the “money raising game” is so crowded.
We are losing 700-900 WW2 vets per day. How do we get this built before they all become memories, just like the soldiers of the Civil and Revolutionary Wars? Or Caesar’s legions? As MacArther said, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” In some ways I don’t think he was referring to himself. He was referring to the lessons of history. The battles those soldiers fought for whatever they were fighting for…those fade. At least I can confidently say, American soldiers went to battle to fight for freedom. Even in unpopular wars, they laid down their lives for the cause of freedom. Not to get more taxes or take imperial territory. So that’s a good thing-even if the death that happens during wars is terrible. Building this museum is too important for me to fail at. I am not going to do that. So, I ask, what would you do?
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By the way, the museum gets very little government money. It’s run just like a start up. Most of the money is private donations. The other unique thing about it is the fact that they situated it in New Orleans. The reason they did that is Nick Mueller and Stephen Ambrose were best friends and professors of history at the University of New Orleans. Eisenhower said the Higgins boat won the war for us. Higgins boats were built in New Orleans. Ironically, my grandfather was a welder in the New Orleans shipyard during World War Two. That’s why it is where it is.
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