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Author: TheConversation

Memorial Day: From Confederate commemoration to holiday honoring all our nation’s military dead

By Richard Gardiner, Associate Professor of History Education, Columbus State University In the years following the bitter Civil War, a former Union general took a holiday originated by former Confederates and helped spread it across the entire country. The holiday was Memorial Day, and this year’s commemoration on May 28 marks the 150th anniversary of its official nationwide observance. The annual commemoration was born in the former Confederate States in 1866 and adopted by the United States in 1868. It is a holiday in which the nation honors its military dead. General John A. Logan, who headed the largest...

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The legacy of Vietnam continues to shape views of honor and loss from war

By Richard Lachmann, Professor of Sociology, University at Albany, State University of New York When Americans think of being at war, they might think of images of their fellow citizens suffering. We count the dead and wounded. We follow veterans on their difficult journey of recovery from physical injuries and post-traumatic stress. We watch families grieve and mourn their dead. But it was not always this way. In fact, newspapers during Vietnam and earlier wars gave little space to portraying individual American service members. Journalists almost never spoke with grieving relatives. I learned this by researching depictions of American...

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Before Social Media: How Morse Code altered the way people communicate for 175 years

By Eddie King, Ph.D. Student in Electrical Engineering, University of South Carolina The first message sent by Morse code’s dots and dashes across a long distance traveled from Washington DC, to Baltimore on Friday, May 24, 1844 – 175 years ago. It signaled the first time in human history that complex thoughts could be communicated at long distances almost instantaneously. Until then, people had to have face-to-face conversations; send coded messages through drums, smoke signals and semaphore systems; or read printed words. Thanks to Samuel F.B. Morse, communication changed rapidly, and has been changing ever faster since. He invented...

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Valedictorian tradition faces an uncertain future in light of tarnished honor

By John R. Thelin, University Research Professor, University of Kentucky As college and high school graduations take place, thousands of select students will step to podiums to deliver their graduating class’s farewell remarks at commencement ceremonies throughout the United States. These students – usually the graduating seniors with the highest grade point average, or GPA – are recognized with a formal title: valedictorians. Though the tradition goes back to colonial times, the validity of valedictorian honor is increasingly being called into question. A growing number of schools are changing how they bestow the honor or doing away with it...

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The Alt-Constitution: A corrupt interpretation of America’s supreme law

By John E. Finn, Professor Emeritus of Government, Wesleyan University Constitution worship does not encourage or even tolerate critical thinking about the Founders or their work. Nor does it make room for any inquiry into where they might have got things wrong or where or how the Constitution may need fixing. I believe the Alt-constitution threatens the values, norms and principles that make up our constitutional tradition. About 10 years ago, I spent a sabbatical on the Maine coast writing a book about the Constitution. One afternoon, an eager reference librarian who knew about my interests invited me to...

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Rural areas remain in persistent decline as economic shift drains jobs and people

By David Swenson, Associate Scientist of Economics, Iowa State University Since the Great Recession, most of the nation’s rural counties have struggled to recover lost jobs and retain their people. The story is markedly different in the nation’s largest urban communities. Across the Midwest, every four years presidential hopefuls swoop in to test how voters might respond to their various ideas for fixing the country’s problems. But what to do about rural economic and persistent population decline is the one area that has always confounded them all. The facts are clear and unarguable. Most of the nation’s smaller urban...

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