Write about your political reflections
John Putnam reflects on writing about his political insights and activities as part of his genealogical narrative.
Reflections on My Political Life Journey
Guest writer John Putnam
Over 40 years ago, I started down the road of many fun hours researching my family’s genealogy. I was fortunate because, in many instances, I knew who my ancestors were by their date and place of birth, marriage, and death.
However, I did not really know WHO they were, what they did, how they thought, how they dealt with the various adversities which life deals everyone. During this time, I could “flesh” out stories from various sources which helped to give me a better idea of the characters of many of my ancestors. As we all know, this takes a lot of work for which I am not averse. But, in recent years, I have started to change my focus by beginning to write my story so my heirs will know WHO I was or, at least, thought I was. I have also advocated on many occasions to my fellow genealogy hobbyists that they do the same but there are often two challenges with this: knowing where to start and having a good format/forum to share this topic.
As I age, I am amazed at all the things there are to memorialize into some type of written or recorded record. As an advanced Baby Boomer, I am continually amazed at the questions my sons and grandsons ask me about events that happened earlier in my lifetime. As I reflect on those times, their many changes, and all the things that I did to adapt to my life’s local, national, and world environment, I am finding more things to comment upon. It may not seem important now, but I suspect it will fascinate my descendants, both current and unknown ancestors.
For example, I am writing this after watching the inauguration of Donald Trump, which is likely one of those events that will affect both my history and the national history as well. Without sharing my politics in this blog, let me say that I was raised from an early age with a fascination for our political system, which is probably why I chose political science as both my undergraduate and graduate course of study.
Rich stories could result from observing or participating in political events
Imagine the rich stories that could result from this timeline of political events in which I was an observer or participator:
• Watched the pageantry of Eisenhower’s inauguration on one of the first televisions that I remember at the home of my parent’s friends
• Saw Eisenhower in his open limousine when he visited the Eastern States Exposition now the Big E in West Springfield, MA
• Had a snow day in 1961 which allowed me to watch the Kennedy inauguration in which he challenged us “to ask not what our country could do for us but rather what we could do for the country”
• In 1962, Senator Edward Kennedy and George Cabot Lodge gave speeches at my high school as they were running for the MA U.S. Senate seat and later attended the Republican State Convention in support of George Cabot Lodge
• Very involved in my hometown with advocating for Barry Goldwater in 1963-64
• Read Theodore White’s Making of a President 1960 as a required reading in my introductory political science class at University of Massachusetts in 1964
• Voted for the first time in 1968 in very challenging times
• Attended the precinct and county caucuses in Colorado in most election years
• Saw Jesse Jackson campaign in Colorado Springs
• Heard both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush speak to the Independent Insurance Agents of America legislative days during their presidency
• Many other intervening political events and tracking the great political events through most of my life
How will my heirs know of these activities if I do not write about them because virtually none of these were documented in any way in the media or in any private journals? Virtually, each of these could serve as separate snippets of my life’s political events.
Each of the above stories just set the stage for the amazing Presidential election of 2016 which I followed closely but was not actively involved because the final two candidates did not fit my political appetite. Many commentators believe this most recent election will become the most analyzed election and documented election in recent history i.e. my lifetime.
Let descendants know your viewpoints on historical political events
As we continue to make sense of this historical event, wouldn’t it be great if our ancestors could learn our views on this landmark election as well as trying to make sense of it for our living descendants. Likely, this election will provide interesting topics for “in the moment” stories i.e. the primaries, conventions, election, and inauguration.
Longer term, it is likely this election will be discussed and written about for the rest of my life. So, perhaps it could serve as the foundation for a more formal piece of your story, since the election has different meanings for each of us which help to define our world views. Why shouldn’t I/we write about this as part of our genealogical narrative?
Write about world views as part of genealogical narrative
As I reflect on my ancestors, most were politically involved and virtually all were affected by the political decisions of their time. I can determine this by their actions in some cases and/or the time frames of their lives. Wouldn’t it have been great if one or more of them had committed their views to paper? It is too late for me to change my ancestor’s behavior, but there is still time to find new ways to share the many insights from local, national, and world events of my lifetime with my descendants as I continually develop and share my genealogical story.