“Back to the Future” was released 25 years ago this week. When Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, first entered a date into the DeLorean’s time machine, it was July 5, 2010. Many on the Internet noted the date this week and concluded that if Marty actually arrived today, he’d quickly get back in the DeLorean and move on, or back, to some other date.
Of course much of Back to the Future was played out in the past. And that’s where I prefer to spend a lot of my time, as well. As I’ve written often, the key to foreseeing the future is understanding the past. That’s why much of the heart of findingDulcinea is devoted to helping students use the Internet to understand the past.
Our On This Day feature remains the most popular section on the site. And my favorite “On This Day” date is the Fourth of July, one of the only days on the calendar on which we simply had to write about three historic events.
Our three On This Days for the Fourth of July explain how America announced its Declaration of Independence, two of its founding fathers died within hours of each other exactly 50 years later, and how, in 1939, a legendary athlete told a sell-out crowd at Yankee Stadium that, notwithstanding the diagnosis of a terminal illness he had just received, he was “the Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth.”
Shortly after we sent our newsletter for the Fourth, I received an email that channeled Marty McFly: “amazing history. I've been dreaming that someday someone would invent a time machine because I am not contented with what I merely read. I want to see it if I could live in every time there is a great event.”
And my immediate thought was that there is a way to go Back to the Future, to live in the time of a great event: teach about it. As a Contracts tutor in Law School, the subject came alive for me much more than it did as a learner. Next, I had the pleasure of visiting a number of kindergarten classrooms to read. I never went with just a book. By carefully introducing a number of props, I transformed beyond a mere reader – to the kids, I was Captain Hook, the Cat in the Hat, the Mouse given a cookie.
And now I’ve helped create findingDulcinea, and continually discuss with students, educators and others some of the amazing things I’ve learned by researching or reading the articles on our website. What we offer goes beyond mere reading – to really engage someone in the importance of an event, you need to travel back to it – by viewing primary sources, such as pictures, videos or letters – and hearing the accounts of those who were there, or lived contemporaneously.
Last summer, I visited the restaurant founded by Jim Croce, one of my music idols. Displayed there were walls of pictures of Jim in concert and with his family, his guitars, and other memorabilia. But it was only when I saw the framed sheet containing the original writing of “Time in a Bottle” that Jim was no longer gone three decades; he was standing right next to me; I was awed by how the writing was so simple and yet conveyed so much. And thus all of our articles and Web Guides about historic topics offer all the primary sources as we can find on the Web. And discovering great events and finding the best primary sources on the Web to share with our readers helps me feel, in a small way, part of the event. But I am envious of those who regularly get to travel Back to the Future to these events with a class full of eager young learners.
Thank you for reading.Mark E. Moran
Founder & CEO