Learning from the Past

Post written by Chris Brusatte, Exhibit Manager at Go For Broke National Education Center

Life is short.  Too much of life is spent in hatred and unnecessary conflict.   People squabble with one another.  Nations go to war against their enemy.  Anger and violence fill the short years that should instead be spent caring productively for families, neighbors, and society.

Often, both nations and people lack second chances and the opportunities to learn from their mistakes.  Without envisioning the results of their actions, they make decisions based on fear, anger, ignorance, apprehension, or uncertainty.  Their quick actions result in permanent or long-lasting consequences, of which they cannot take back.  Sometimes people die, liberties are lost, or prejudice and injustice ferment.

How often these nations or people wish that they could simply turn back the clock, and – now armed with the knowledge that they have about the destructive consequences of their actions – take a different path.  They would not repeat the same mistakes.  The death, lost freedoms, and injustices would never occur.  A truly just and equitable society would be able to flower.

That is why history is so important.  Both people and countries can look to the lessons of the past in order to learn from the consequences of what others did.  They can judge, in hindsight, all of the positive and negative effects that occurred when their predecessors took certain actions that they are themselves considering in the present.  They can look to avoid taking actions that resulted in consequences of deaths, lost liberties, and injustices in past history.  They can look to follow actions that resulted in positive results and expanded freedoms.  History is like one giant instruction manual for the current generation to follow.  No one can claim ignorance when they have the annals of history as their guide.

And that is why we do what we do.  By preserving the history of the Japanese American World War II experience, we are providing lessons to current and future generations.  Our government can learn from its mistaken treatment of Japanese Americans during wartime.  Our citizens can learn of the courage exhibited by the young Japanese American soldiers and their families.  And we all can learn about the beauty – and the strength – that can occur in human society even during the worst of times.  THAT is why we do what we do.  Each video that we preserve, each letter that we document, each photograph that we share – every single one of them contains lessons for current and future Americans.  Our archives is but one large instruction manual for the betterment of human society.


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