The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Bill Eggert

January 27, 2013

BILL EGGERT | Anniversary reflections: Looking back over past 6 years

— January marks the sixth anniversary of my column in The Tribune-Democrat. As I embark on the seventh year of my column, I reflect back on the previous six years. I want to thank you, the readers, for your many kind comments, both in person and through email/postal mail. I am humbled by your kind words and thoughtful replies to my columns over the years.

I take my column very seriously, double-checking my facts and research. I try to keep my columns as positive and upbeat as possible, something that is not as easy to do at times. In a world filled with weekly tragedies, mass shootings and adults (often athletes/ politicians) behaving badly, it has been very difficult not using my column as a soapbox or bully pulpit to rail against society’s many transgressions.

Most folks in the spotlight try to avoid such hot button topics as politics and religion. We have a president whose most noteworthy achievement was being re-elected despite his lack of accomplishment in his four years in office, most significantly with the horrendous economy. Celebrities such as Alec Baldwin throw hissy fits at the drop of the hat and yet get away with it because of their political leanings.

I try to bite my tongue and avoid such topics because our country is polarized enough already.

I like to vary my column topics by focusing on different interests: Cultural (cinema, television, etc.), sports (also a minefield of controversy) and especially history (family, country, etc.). I feel that our society is increasingly ignoring our history on so many levels, and it shows everywhere.

Late night talk show hosts ask people on the street to identify historical figures in photos and said passersby are clueless. But ask them to identify anyone from the  TV ‘reality’ show “Jersey Shore” and they are instant geniuses. Social media and mainstream media are partly to blame.

Likewise many fail their children by not educating them in their family roots. When I was young, children were taught to be seen and not heard.

Today it seems to be the opposite. Obviously there needs to be a balance there.

One of the very few noteworthy shows on NBC-TV (based on a British TV series) has been the genealogy documentary series, “Who Do You Think You Are?” The show featured celebrities researching their family trees and discovering fascinating stories about their ancestors (slavery, witchcraft trials, etc.) that were compelling as well as emotional.

According to feedback I have received from readers, some of my most popular columns were the ones that focused on my family members, such as my dad. Readers comment that these columns strike a common chord, reminding them of their own fathers and family members.

Memory-themed columns have a universal yearning for all of us to return (if only temporarily) to a past that, if not totally accurate, we remember it as. Our memories are really our most personal sense of self. They are a culmination of our life experiences to the present moment and define us in a most personal way. Is it any wonder they say that our life flashes before our eyes in the moments before we leave this mortal plane?

One final note to end on: Many readers have suggested I collect my past columns and publish them in a book. It has been an idea that I have been contemplating for some time, and I will seriously look into that suggestion this year. I will keep everyone updated on this situation as it develops.

In the meantime, I look forward to your feedback and comments in the new year, as we look ahead (and back) as the year 2013 unfolds upon us, in hopefully positive ways for us all.

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