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Letter from the Editor

by on September 24, 2012 11:15 AM

In September, this region lost another landmark when fire destroyed the Hotel Do De in Bellefonte. It was the fourth fire in the past eight years that has taken away a historical building in Bellefonte.

The tragedy caused me to think about history and the fact that it isn’t just fires that are causing us to lose ours — or, maybe more accurately, our perspective on history — and it’s not just happening in Bellefonte. I realize I sound like an old fogy when I write this — but modern times with the Internet, social media, and the 24-hour news cycle that has networks quickly covering a story and then just as quickly not covering it are, I believe,

causing us to become more disconnected to history. While it’s great to Google some historical event or person and find hundreds of stories about them, and maybe even watch a video, do we really gain a sense of our past that way? Maybe a little, but the fear, I have at least, is that we don’t explore and visit these historical places as much anymore, or talk as often to people who lived through historical times. And by doing those things less, we weaken our strong bonds to the past and perspectives on why things are the way they are and how we arrived at this point in time.

One of the most obvious examples of this is the fact that we’re rapidly losing members of the World War II generation. These are people who lived through an extraordinary time in the world’s history, and their stories should be heard. Whether it’s a veteran who fought in Europe or the Pacific, or someone who just tried to get their family through the Depression, we can learn a great deal just by listening to them tell their stories.

A more current example is the presidential election coming up in November. History, especially with an incumbent running, should be a factor in determining who wins. Obviously, we want to try and envision the future and what we want the next four years to be like, but questions about our past also should be asked. Where are we as a country (and the world for that matter) now compared to four years ago? Are we better? Worse? And how did we arrive here? Depending on how you answer those questions will likely determine whom you are voting for.

But in the age of Twitter, instead of big historical perspectives we usually get tit-for-tats. Obama says this. Romney says that. Obama responds. Romney responds. Then everyone does a poll. Repeat.

Big moments demand more than just that. We need those strong connections to our history that give us perspectives and help us make sound decisions for our future.

Perhaps in that same vein, Town&Gown continues to ask for people to send in their stories to be considered for the magazine’s “We Are ...” feature each month. This month’s issue has four more personal stories, written by people who live here, on why they love living here. You can e-mail your stories to

David Pencek is editor of Town&Gown magazine, Town&Gown's Penn State Football Annual, and Town&Gown's Penn State Winter Sports Annual.
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