News & Commentary

The Eyes of the Future Will Be Upon Us

The endless cycle of current events we attempt to process makes it easy to forget the fact that our entire world rests upon a vast human timeline.

January 14, 2021

Capitol rioter stealing podium
WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY IMAGES

Opinion by Zachary Rose
Plumsted Township Resident, High School History Teacher


We are not separate from the events of the past or of the future. Ultimately, we are a culmination of choices made long before our time. These choices, which date back eternally, have brought us to where we now stand. And future generations will look back on our choices to better understand and navigate their world.


Some throughout history were keenly aware of this fact; especially our Founders. They recognized themselves as actors on the stage of human history. Writers of that history. They knew their choices, words, and principles would be studied by those who came after. That the causes upon which they embarked and the values for which they fought would be permanently etched in the timeline of human history.


“The Citizen’s of America...” George Washington wrote in 1783 at the end of the American War for Independence, “...are, from this period, to be considered as Actors on a most conspicuous Theatre, which seems particularly designed by Providence for the display of human greatness and felicity.”


Washington’s conviction that Americans were actors on the stage of human history was one held by most of the revolutionary generation. On July 3, 1776, upon the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that it “will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America,” and was “apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations.”


The message here is clear. Our Founders knew that we would be looking back upon them. They also understood that it was choices that would determine whether the American experiment was to succeed or fail. At the end of his 1783 remarks on the future of America, Washington concluded “if [its] Citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be intirely [sic] their own.”


In the time since General Washington wrote those words, the United States has become the world’s oldest continuous democracy. We have an obligation to those who have come before us to continue this American experiment. It is now our time to make choices that secure the principles and opportunities granted to us through the choices of those long gone. It is also our responsibility to solve the problems created by those choices. But our most pressing responsibility is to those who have yet to come. As we so often do with figures of our past, future generations will be looking upon us in their time. Let us not disappoint them.


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