Last Tuesday, Maury Klein ‘60 returned to Knox to present on the United States history, today’s tumultuous times and how the former can predict the latter. To start off the presentation, Klein talked about his methods of studying history.
“[The past is] like a foreign country,” he said.
When asked about the quote, Klein said that history can be almost foreign at times, requiring everything to be taken in the context of the times in which they occurred.
From there, he went on to explain how patterns in history repeat, which fed into the main topic of the night: U.S. history and today’s political and societal situations.
“U.S. history can be summed up in two points: the U.S. has a superiority complex and [the U.S.]has always desired simple answers to complex situations,” Maury said.
Klein gave examples of both points. He believes that, especially in the last century, America’s superiority complex has led it to shape the world in its image, as seen by the idea of spreading democracy across the world, and setting up regimes with ideas similar to its own. As for America’s simple answers to complex situations, Klein brought up how once the Red Scare was used as a way to blame the unrest and changes going on in the world on what people did not like.
The presentation ended by Klein discussing the rise of the “alt-right” and what he sees happening in the future. He is optimistic about it, believing that the surge of extremism will eventually end.
“This whole country was built on compromise and eventually moderate America will take control again,” Klein said.
Klein went further into depth on why he believes it will eventually end.
“It’s yet another round of these kinds of conflicts that have punctured American history over the years. … [extremism is] going to get worse, and something, and I couldn’t tell you [what], will diffuse it and people will start to get sick of it,” he said.
According to Klein, America occasionally goes through a period of the extremes. Past examples include the 1950s and 60s, the Reagan era and the Great Depression.
Student reaction was overall positive.
“I really enjoyed his take on history overall. I think he really captured the joy of learning from history and why people should and do study the past. He had a really optimistic tone for the future of America and I think that’s great to hear considering the events that we’re all living through,” sophomore Natasha Caudill said.
Klein’s opinion of Knox is also optimistic. According to Klein, when his step-daughter, a Class of 2015 alumna, was looking at colleges, he recommended to her that she visit Knox since it was on the way to another college she was looking at. When she got back, Knox was a top choice.
“The reasons she gave me were basically the reasons I went to Knox … a certain kind of atmosphere, a warmth, a set of values and I don’t think that part has changed [since I went here],” Maury said.
For the future, Klein hopes that the values of community, hard work and open-mindedness that drew him and his step-daughter to Knox do not change, as he believes them to be important during this time of extremism.