Campus History

I have been in Auburn for the majority of my life – about fourteen of my twenty-three years. Through the years I have seen almost every aspect of campus change in one way or another. There have been new buildings built, old ones torn down, new roads and walkways, but the most profound change that I have seen on campus is the Memorial Garden on the corner of Samford Avenue and Mell Street. This project is my favorite because it is an ever-changing way for Auburn’s history to be renewed yet preserved. Students, faculty, and family members are always welcome to come and walk amongst the garden and enjoy the serene environment while reflecting on life. This memorial is one way that Auburn has improved its PDH (public displays of history). I like that this public historical monument is always taking on new meaning. It isn’t meant to memorialize one moment in history, or one person, or set of people. It is always gathering new meaning and significance. For example, the 9/11 memorial in New York City is a beautiful way to remember what happened on that tragic day. The monument’s intended meaning, to memorialize those who lost their lives on that day, is set in stone. No people will be added to it. With Auburn’s memorial, there is new meaning attached every year. It pays homage to past students, faculty, and members of the family while gaining new significance every day. I think Auburn hit a home run with this memorial. The city/university has quite a lot of historic markers, yet this was a very creative way to turn an old piece of property into a revitalized public history space. When I first moved here, there was nothing more than a few markers at random spots, and the university didn’t really have much to honor its history. The library occasionally had a small local history display, but that was about it. Now we have professors collaborating with students to create things like the Creed Week in which we honor the university’s creed and its past over the span of the week. We have the memorial garden and statue honoring influential female leaders. We have a hall honoring the history of our athletic department. Our department also hosts numerous events at Pebble Hill to educate members of the community on our past and how we should move forward. Overall, I think as time passes, Auburn is doing more and more outstanding work honoring our history and using it to create a narrative that we work into today’s world.

The Wonders of a Landscape

This past week, I was able to experience one of my favorite landscapes in Alabama. That landscape is this incredibly old tree in my family’s home: Lamar County, Alabama. This tree has been the source of many good memories over the years: nature excursions, Sunday drives, peaceful Bible study, and many more. However, I have never sat and observed it for itself. As I sat in a chair under the shade of its massive branches, I began observing many things that I under-appreciated: Leaves, branches, vines, all blocking the beautiful sunshine of a fall day. Birds were in the air singing the song of creation, of new life. I found myself surrounded by various creatures, some seen, some unseen. No matter what position I was in, or where I was sitting, I found myself completely at peace. The serenity of God’s creation is second to none. I was only accessible by one small dirt road that winds through foliage for multiple miles before spitting you out at this tree. Green everywhere, thanks to cold fall being slightly delayed and many evergreens all around. I was at least ten miles from any people – maybe that’s why it’s so serene…. The landscape was teeming with life, and I a part of it. When standing at a different angle, the sun shines differently. I still see everything I already saw, but also, I see further down the road. There is still nothing but vegetation, dirt and animals as far as the eye can see. Everything is quiet. There is the occasional bird chirping or squirrel moving, but other than that, just the rustling of the leaves. I have never been in a more peaceful setting; it is completely serene, and I can think so well. I smell nature. I smell grass and clean, crisp air. The dirt has a slight smell to it, but it’s hard to describe. I love the way nature smells, like life. The landscape is rough, not comfortable, but raw. The weeds are not soft, but rugged, it’s not comfortable, yet somehow very peaceful. I sat and pondered the history of this tree, and all that it has seen over undoubtedly hundreds of years. Because my grandparents have lived here for 50 years, and because a small part of it still stands, I know that there used to be an old homestead to the right of this tree, but it has been abandoned since the 1970’s. There isn’t much left of that old place, just a small structure, nature has almost completely taken over. The place is now just a part of the county land. It belongs to the county, and they have just let the land exist as it is. People can come use the land as they see fit – as long as they are good stewards. The history of this place can’t be observed, as I said, it’s up to people to share its history, and memories. My grandparents are able to share the tree’s history, well at least around 50 years of its history, but not much more. I think the history of this place is important, but honestly the current situation is just as important. It’s a serene place where people can be alone with nature and enjoy God’s creation. These unseen things (the bugs, various creatures, history) don’t have as much of a large impact because this landscape is all about being in the moment, taking in what you are witnessing. However, it is still fun to sit and wonder just what all has happened at its roots.

The (Covid-19) World According to Tim

“It’s no different for me. I go to work (on a farm) every day where I’m not required to wear a mask. Except for being out in public in some places, life hasn’t changed.” My interview with my friend, Tim, went almost exactly as I believed it would. He revealed truths to me that, to be quite honest, were not surprising in the slightest. His experience with masks, quarantine, and everything else Covid-19 related, was exactly as I had imagined. Unchanged.

            Tim is a salt-of-the-Earth type of guy. He is a hard-working, blue-collar guy who “isn’t going to live in fear of some virus.” Tim works on a farm, is only around a few people every day, and has a very anti-medical approach to life. If your back hurts, get over it. If you get cut, keep working. “People die every day. Why should I continue to be afraid to go out in public? If it kills me, it kills me.” This has been Tim’s approach to everything during the pandemic. Does he wear a mask? Yes, surprisingly…a bandana reminiscent of Marion Morrison’s glory days.

            Tim’s beliefs on the coronavirus, or “China virus,” align perfectly with that of his political hero – Donald J. Trump. Did President Trump say it? Well then it must be true. This plays perfectly with Tim’s narrative that the Coronavirus “doesn’t affect him.” With his hero so adamantly denying the severity of the pandemic for so long, why would it affect him? The President was taking an approach to the pandemic that was very similar to Tim’s own life philosophy.

            My favorite part of the interview was towards the end. When asked how long he thought the virus would stick around, Tim replied: “Until the election. Once Trump wins again, it’ll all go away.” An interesting observation. Is he right? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Still it was nice to officially confirm what I believed to be Tim’s views on this whole situation. I quite enjoyed my talk with my old friend, even if we have differing views.

Presence of the Past

I think this survey did a great job of helping our subject really begin thinking about how history is intertwined into everything we do. It helped me show my roommate that a lot of what he interacts with on a daily basis has a historical background. My roommate’s view of history was simply a terrible class in high school and nothing but boring facts about events that happened long ago. By participating in this interview, he was able to understand that the field of History has depth and there is a niche for just about everyone. I found it interesting that he found teachers to be the most reputable source of history, which I tend not to agree with. It was really nice to see an in-depth perspective on what history means to someone who isn’t in the major, field, or really even likes it. For the past couple of years now, most of my time has been spent with history majors, so I don’t get to see too much outside perspective. I believe that the biggest change necessary with the questions, is just an update to a few of them. Maybe throw in some more questions relevant to today’s world. Ask more in-depth questions. Ask more about social justice – or lack-thereof. A slight update would make this survey quite good. Overall, though, I thought it did a great job at having interviewees engage and think about how history is interwoven in everything and that it truly is a fascinating subject.

Honoring the Past, or Ignoring the Reality?

Removing monuments is a sticky situation any way you look at it. This is also a very broad issue. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on statues pertaining to American wars. On one side, people feel the need to keep a physical testament to the, what they would call, proud, heritage of their forefathers. On the other side, people look at said symbols and it brings to mind horrible memories and stories of that same heritage oppressing people groups in violent, inhumane ways. Removing these monuments is an increasingly large topic of conversation in the United States. I, for one, advocate for the removal of all public monuments pertaining to American wars. I believe that they should be placed in museums. Those museums, no matter what they represent, should be respected by all people. Putting any and all monuments in museums solves the problem that people are forced to see offensive statues in their daily life. If one wants to “remember their heritage,” feel free to go into the museum. If one wants to honor the sacrifices made by people who faced horrible oppression, go into that museum. One case in Mobile, Alabama, displayed this idea perfectly. A statue of a confederate navy officer in downtown Mobile was moved to a local museum, and the Mayor of Mobile stated that she had no doubt that this was the right move. This allows people who want to honor that specific area of history to be able to do so, without shoving it in the face of everyone in the city. The article containing this story had many other stories in which removing offensive monuments and relocating them to museums has been a great success. I think this is a good way to compromise. Unfortunately, history is offensive, whether one likes it or not.


“Where Have Statues of Confederates, and Other Historical Figures, Been Removed?” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2020.