Note from the Editor:
This article references the “History in Focus” program hosted by the Department of Recreation and Parks in conjunction with two Human Resources Division: DEI and Organizational Learning and Talent Development (OLTD). The course catalog listed the following description: Each year, Henrico honors two very important dates in our nation’s history – Juneteenth and July 4th. Both represent America’s foundational values of freedom and equality. Do we celebrate our achievements or commemorate the beginning of an ongoing journey? Or can we do both? Knowing our history and the impact of events from the past is essential to understanding where we are today. As individuals with unique backgrounds, the more we acknowledge and embrace the diversity in our community, the more we progress as a society. Come join us for candid, interactive storytelling and discussion of this complex, trailblazing, and still relatively young country we all call home.
We were fortunate to host our first “History in Focus” program in March. It was quite the learning experience, and we, as facilitators, learned just as much from the attendees as we could provide them. The virtual program was very well attended and, from our perspective, a success! We were so pleased that the participants were eager for this information, and they brought up crucial points that we will incorporate into historical displays and programming moving forward. For some time now, our staff has wanted to share with co-workers and colleagues the rich insights that are found in our history, whether it is local, state, or national.
Since COVID, the extended work-from-home experience, and the period of social protest nationwide, the Division of Recreation and Parks history staff has searched for ways to use programming and dialog to help give our audiences perspective. When you can see from letters, photographs, and journals of 1918 just how deeply the Influenza Epidemic impacted Virginians, we as a community can take solace in the fact that “this too shall pass.” These words from a 13th-century Persian poet were used in a speech by President Abraham Lincoln at the close of the Civil War. History teaches us that the American journey has been and continues to be challenging and complex.
There are not always simple answers to issues we face as a society. For every story of our past that is recorded in history textbooks, there are multiple narratives that go largely unexplored and even less available to be taught in schools.
Our team believes that social and civic progress can be made through conversations about our total history, whether triumphant or tragic. Henrico County is full of stories about individuals, places, and events that have shaped our community’s growth and development and contributed to the history of the state and nation. Sharing the lesser-known stories about our collective heritage as Americans can teach us how others who don’t look like us have succeeded and endured. Our experiences shape us, and learning about the experience of others creates understanding and empathy.
As public servants, we work daily to provide for the needs of our constituents whose life history and ancestry have shaped their worldviews. Regardless of the county division/department we represent, we must provide assistance without judgment. For those who look for historical equivalents in contemporary situations, we can see and take pride in our progress as a society. We can also see areas where we can do better. As students of history, we can also recognize essential elements of human nature that contribute to our survival. Adapting to the unexpected and the compassion to help those in need have been pervasive throughout history.
We look forward to the opportunity to participate in more classes to share the lessons of the past as we face the challenges of the future.