Archives For History

An Experienced Life

January 30, 2014 — Leave a comment

One of my favorite and most inspirational movies of the past twenty years is Good Will Hunting (1997). It has many memorable and important scenes is between Robin Williams’ character as teacher and Matt Damon’s character Will Hunting. Damon’s character had just insulted William’s character so they sat down to have a talk. Watch the movie clip but you can also read part of it that I provided.

“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone who could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you.”

This is the conversation that guides the story toward action and resolution for Damon’s character. This scene gives me chills every time I watch it. Damon’s character, although clearly brilliant, had not truly lived life in all of its pain and glory. He had been stuck in his neighborhood thinking he knew all there was to know about life. There was a bigger life to experience if he would open himself up. It is hard to  miss that I am like Damon’s character and fear the risk of going out into the world to really experience life.

Recently I visited one of the most infamous city settings in the world: Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. On November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated here. Dealey Plaza rests on the southwest side of downtown Dallas. I’ve read multiple books and watched countless documentaries and movies about the JFK Assassination. But none of his compared to actually being at the site of this tragic event. As Robin Williams mentioned above, there is nothing like visiting it to smell the air, feel the history, and to stand where history changed us forever. It was eerie and it brought a bit of  sadness to me that I didn’t expect to feel. Reading and watching stories about JFK always brought intrigue but rarely did it ever bring emotion like this. Silently, I walked all around the area with my brother-in-law and my wife and toured the JFK 6th Floor Museum. It is an experience I will not forget.

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View from the 7th Floor of the infamous Texas School Book Depository overlooking Dealey Plaza. One floor directly down from me was assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s sniper nest.

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Standing next to the street where Kennedy was shot. Two “X’s” mark mark on the street where he was shot. To my left is the infamous grassy knoll where conspiracy theories point toward a second gunman.

Walking and visiting the places of history reminds us that we are part of a big story. It is full of beauty, adventure, victory, loss, and tragedy. It should provoke the feelings to make us want to make a lasting impact on this world because we are called to a great story. This trip reminded me that I can live life comfortably at home but if I don’t take a step out to truly explore what God is nudging me to do, I will miss the real life.

“To know there is a better story for your life and to choose something other is to choose to die.” – Donald Miller

Have you ever visited a place of history that gave you the chills?

Does it make you think about how your lasting impact will be on the world?

 

 

Today, July 2nd, we United States citizens celebrate our independence.

Wait you say, “Isn’t July 4th our independence day, not July 2nd?”

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We celebrate on July 4th because of a little thing called the Declaration of Independence. The document was passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 4th. In fact, what we know of the signing, it was done by individuals over the next month with little drama. The real drama happened on July 2nd when it was voted upon by the delegates.

On July 2nd, 1776 the Second Continental Congress debated independence at the State House in Philadelphia. Twelve of the thirteen delegates voted for independence with one abstaining. The scene was tense with debate and their lives were on the line. We are here today because of the courage of those few. Each man knew that by voting and putting their name on this document would seal their fate if captured by the British.

This voting scene is best captured by the HBO Miniseries John Adams (2008).

In the Pulitzer Prize winning book John Adams, David McCullough noted the momentous occasion.

“So, it was done, the break was made, in words at least: on July 2, 1776, in Philadelphia, the American colonies declared independence. If not all thirteen clocks had struck as one, twelve had, and with the other silent, the effect was the same.

It was John Adams, more than anyone, who had made it happen. Further, he seems to have understood more clearly than any what a momentous day it was and in the privacy of two long letters to Abigail, he poured out his feelings as did no one else:

The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

So whether we celebrate our independence on July 2nd or July 4th, we should all thankful that we are celebrating in the way our founding father John Adams envisioned.

Happy Independence Day!

Recently I watched the movie Midnight in Paris (2011).  I’m not a Woody Allen junkie but this one fascinated me.  The main character Gil, played by Owen Wilson, is an aspiring writer who admires the “Lost Generation” artists from 1920’s Paris.  In the movie, Gil finds himself transported to that era where he meets artist greats like Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Gertrud Stein, Pablo Picasso, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Although a fiction story, it was amusing to get lost in the story of the Gil and it got me thinking.

What era would I have liked to live in?

There is much to consider in the question and answers can be surprisingly personal.  I’ve asked this question many times to friends and you get a lot of different answers.

Women quite often bring up that era’s rights of women first.  An old female friend of mine said that she wouldn’t want to live in any other era than now because women have never had so much opportunity.  I never thought of that before she brought it up. My wife in particular always wishes she were in the Jane Austen Victorian Era with the beautiful dresses, chivalry, and beautiful dialogue (no pressure on me, huh).  My mother is fascinated by the Tudors (yes the show as well) but never would have wanted to wear the suffocating dresses or have to deal with lack of modern medicine.

Most men I’ve quizzed seem to be fascinated by eras that represent the greatest adventure to them.  If you were a baseball fan, perhaps it would be the 1920s and 1930s when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig ruled the diamond.  If you admired the military, they say World War II, The Civil War, or the Napoleonic Wars.  My father has always been intrigued by his grandfather who lived from the 1880’s to 1980’s. His Grandpa Moberg was born during the “horse and buggy” age and lived until seeing a man on the moon.

And now my answer…

The Age of Exploration is a favorite of mine.  But then I remember details about explorers like Magellan who despite technically not making it around the world (killed by Filipino natives), ironically got a GPS system named after him.  The truth is, his story wasn’t much different from other explorers who either died in the middle of their journey fighting natives or from some terrible disease.   I’ve also been fascinated by the Roman Empire  or Ancient Greece and their gallant expansion battles, beautiful architecture, and lessons of government.  Perhaps I read/watched a little too much of Julius Caesar and The Iliad. If I were to pick a favorite, I would pick The American Revolution. I imagine myself fighting for freedom with my distant relative, Vermont Minuteman Lt. Nathaniel Bowman Brown.  It has always seemed to be a time period of great drama; to live on the frontier, fight for freedom, and form of a new way of life.

The truth is, as Midnight in Paris’ Gil points out, someone is going to be asked this question fifty years from now and possibly think that “the 2010’s” is the best era.  We are never quite satisfied in the era we live are we?   We look back to find solace and inspiration from other eras.   I’m sure that ole Uncle Nate Brown looked back to The Renaissance and thought, “Man, that era was so much better than this 1770’s mess.”

What about you?  

What is the best era in history to live? 

Not long ago I attended a conference in Washington, D.C.  I love that city.  It is easy to be cynical about D.C. and see it as a town only full of politicians with lobbyist leeches there to influence them.  I admit that I have been one of the cynics in the past.  I want to change and here is why.  What I like about DC is the same reason I enjoy parts of Nashville, New York, or Los Angeles.  You will undoubtedly meet someone from another part of the world.  Often I am called a pied piper so whenever I encounter someone from another culture, I am drawn to them to learn about their story.

I don’t recall who said these poignant lines but it goes like this:

Americans love to spend time and energy trying to understand who they are.  They unfortunately spend so little time trying to understand who the world is.

My understanding became much clearer after I visited Washington DC and experienced the following:

Experience #1: At the conference, the thousands who attended share a similar political ideology.  One thing that was evident was their passion for the “idea of America” and it surpassed a specific political ideology.  Anyone with an open mind can respect that.  I am a moderate conservative but their zeal resonated with me.  My hope is that when the world looks at America, they see freedom as I witnessed at the conference.

Experience #2: I met a Scottish girl named Shona who is married to an American friend of mine, Nathan and has lived in the United States for the past couple years.  I had lived and worked in Scotland in 2001 so we had plenty to discuss including politics, British and American culture, music, food, etc.  I asked her what the current pulse of the British people was about America. She seemed to agree that it was very much like the quote above.  I have been reading Tony Blair’s A Journey which provides an insightful political perspective on Anglo-American relations the past couple decades. Shona, Nathan, and I discussed in detail how we need to be more alert than ever before about protecting freedom.  As Brits and Americans, it is a special responsibiltiy we bear.  While we have not mastered it, we need to be a beacon of freedom and lead.

Experience #3: I met Sam Solomon from Ethiopia.  Sam is a cab driver whom we spent an intriguing 45 minute ride from central Washington DC all the way to Dulles International Airport.  He lives here legally, is married, and has four children.  Sam wouldn’t stop smiling when talking about America. Sam said he still has family in Ethiopia but doesn’t see a reason to go back unless it is more free and things change. We discussed that not far from Ethiopia an uprising is happening in the Middle East driven primarily by citizens wanting a democratic process.  America has given Sam the opportunity to start a business, raise a family safely, and live free.  We all need to listen to the Sam Solomons living in America.

My lessons from these experiences:

Freedom and the democratic process is unmatched.

We should never stop seeking freedom or if necessary, fight for it.


On July 26th, my mother, Barrett Martin Schroeder turns 65.  She may or may not want me mentioning this milestone in a blog but I am proud of her and thankful for those many years she has been in my life and impacted it.  She represents a living legacy to both my sister Sarah and I.  We are readers because of her.  We try to be forgiving to others because she is of us.  We have traveled so much because of her leading the way.  We are educated because of her (and Dad).  We are a close family because of her example.  Yep, we even look a lot like her too.  Both my sister and I have kids now so we feel that it’s our responsibility to continue on a living legacy and always tell her story.  We love you mom and have a Happy Birthday.  Here’s to many more ahead.

And yes, I’m sorry I threw a plastic chair at you when I was 5.

Me, Mom, Sarah, and Dad

Last year when my father turned 65, he sent out this letter to everyone and I hope you will enjoy it.  He is the definition of “nostalgic” and loves looking back to figure out what “today” means.  It’s no shock about why I love history as do they do too. I hope you enjoy as it is quite humorous.  He is the “real” Dave Schroeder.

Some Thoughts on Turning 65

Sunday I celebrated my 65th birthday in Chicago with Barrett and our daughter Sarah.  While I did not say anything to them, I kept on thinking “What was it like in 1944 and how can I explain it to my children and grandchildren?”

For the first 14 months of my existence, I live with my mother in the second floor apartment in South St. Louis.  The apartment had a kitchen, bedroom and living room.  The total square footage was about as big as most people’s family rooms today.  We had a radio and a phone for communications.  The phone was a “Party Line” which meant we shared the line with two or three other households.  Today if you said Party Line your probably meant 1-800-GOT-SEXX.

We did not have a television for almost seven more years and that was a big box with a round black and white screen.  No HI DEF.  There was no Internet (I am a few years older than Al Gore), nor e-mail, Twitter or Facebook.  We communicated by writing letters.  I still have the one from my dad when he found out I was born.  The reason he was not in my life for those 14 months was that he was in England waiting to be shipped to the Ardennes in Belgium to fight in the Battle of the Bulge that December where he was wounded just a month later.  I recently asked a young man checking me out at an office supply store if he had heard of the Battle?  He replied, “No, but I am going to study it next semester as I am taking “Ancient and Medieval History.”

I finally met my father in January of 1946.  Instead of flying home from Europe in six or eight hours, he came home on a “Troop Ship” which took six to eight days and then had to take a train from New York to St. Louis which took another couple of days.  Legend has it that I leaked all over his uniform.  Those old diapers just don’t measure up to today’s Pampers.

When dad got home, we did not have a car and it took another year or two before they were available because of rationing.  My Grandfather Moberg had a car.  I figured he was rich.  Dad took something called a trolley to work or we walked to shop at the neighborhood store right around the corner or took the trolley to Tower Grove Park.

We finally got a house in Webster in 1951.  Three bedrooms, all brick for the whopping price of $15,000.  We had to build on a garage a few years later with the help of my parent’s friends.  It is amazing what you can get for a few cases of beer.  But life was good and we were happy.

I was not happy when I had to repeat 1st grade.  Since I started in the city school at midterm, when we moved to the county, I was a semester behind and could not read.  Best thing that ever happened to me!  I went form being the youngest kid in the class to the oldest and I learned how the read, write and do math.  Little did we know at that time that our principal, Mr. Rose, was doing the dirty deed with Miss Bright my third grade teacher.  It was a big scandal years later.

No need to cover the high school or college years or the forty-one years since then.  Today I am married to my college sweetheart, Barrett, and we have been blessed with two wonderful and productive children, Sarah and David.  They have continued blessing us with two grandchildren and another one on the way.  Yesterday, we actually saw a Sonogram of the soon to come grandchild.  Did we have those in 1944? (since then, she was born and doing well)

And to top things off, our children and their spouses gave me a Garman GPS for my birthday.  Without it, I never could have found my way back from Chicago.

God bless all our relatives and many friends.  It is amazing how fast 65 years can fly by.  But I feel like I did thirty years ago other than a few aches and pains.  I can live with that, as I have been blessed.

Age 65 is a lifetime away for Sarah and I but a lifetime of memories to build and share.  We are already started.

Where do you see yourself at 65?

What do you see yourself doing?

Who is with you?

What do you see as your living legacy?