For many people, July 4th sparks thoughts of fireworks, cookouts, and red, white, and blue attire. While I’m never one to turn down a fun, patriotic celebration, I think it’s important to remember the history behind the celebration.
July 4th is about celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, marking the birth of American independence.
Southwest Airlines is proud to support National History Day, an organization dedicated to teaching youth around the world about the importance of knowing our world’s history. This year, I had the privilege of walking the halls of University of Maryland as students were preparing their exhibits for final judging. Two thousand, eight hundred, and seventy-four Students participating in the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day competition competed with exhibits such as Trumans’s Double Victory: Executive Order 9981 Integrates the Military; Jackie Robinson Turns the Tide in Baseball History; and San Antonio’s Great Flood of 1921.
More than 600,000 high school students from across the United States and abroad participated in the year-long academic program focused on history research for sixth- through 12th-grade students. Local and state competitions, held earlier this year, decided which students would move on to the final competition in June to showcase their original papers, web sites, documentaries, exhibits, and performances around this year’s topic, Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, and Events.
It’s not often that 2,800 students gather in one spot to talk about history—and, talk about history they did! I had the pleasure of meeting many students during my time on the beautiful College Park campus. It was fun and inspiring to see students excited about history, excited to share their project story, and excited to share their Southwest story when they found out I worked for the Company. I heard many stories from students, parents, and teachers who chose Southwest to fly to BWI for the competition, but it was a story from Angela, a sixth grader at Harris Middle School in San Antonio and her teacher, Ms. Griffith, that put a big ol’ smile on my face and again reminded me that I’m so lucky to have landed at a Company that truly values the importance of Customer Service. When they arrived at the ticket counter in San Antonio, they were nervous about the fact they might have to pay additional fees because of the dimensions of Angela’s display. They were pleasantly surprised to learn that the display was under the weight requirements for Southwest’s baggage policy and that it would indeed fly free to Baltimore. I never get tired of hearing Customer tell me how much they appreciate Southwest’s free baggage policy.
A fun competition tradition is the button-trading extravaganza. Something that caught my eye, after seeing all the students carrying in their displays, was the clusters of students chatting, showing, and trading their colorful state buttons. Of course, I had to find out the history of this tradition and start engaging with the students to start my own collection. The button-trading tradition began around the mid-1980s. Cathy Gorn, Ph.D., Executive Director of National History Day, said she got the idea from watching the Olympics and seeing the athletes from different countries trading pins. It looked like a good way to get kids to meet one another. I think it’s safe to say that Cathy was right; the kids couldn’t get enough of the button trading!
The impact of National History Day goes far beyond the annual contest. A comprehensive study by Rockman et al (a consulting company) found that students who participate in NHD develop a range of college- and career-ready skills and outperform their peers on state standardized tests across all subjects—including science and math. In fact, National History Day was awarded the prestigious 2011 National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony for being “a program that inspires in American students a passion for history. Each year more than half a million children from across the country compete in this event, conducting research and producing websites, papers, performances, and documentaries to tell the human story.” Now, that is something to be proud of, NHD Team!
Southwest Airlines is proud to be the Official Airline of National History Day and play a part getting our youth excited about history. This year, as you watch fireworks in the sky, I hope you’ll take a moment to remember the important history behind the holiday!