homestories Inquiry Uncategorized

Historical Truth

Knowledge of history can inoculate us against political fiction

Before a sold-out crowd of more than 3,000 people in Portland’s Keller Auditorium on April 21, OSU historian Christopher McKnight Nichols laid out the case for the urgent power of historical knowledge.

At the TEDx Portland event, Nichols described how isolationist policies have evolved in the United States since the earliest days of the republic. During the 1930s, the term “America First,” signaled a broad popular movement that all but disappeared after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

It is ironic, he noted, that after another attack on Sept. 11, 2001, following a century of increasing international engagement and leadership, the country began an inward turn reflected in the resurrection of that term.

Listen to Nichols’ presentation in this video of the event captured by KGW TV.

Nichols is an associate professor of history and Director of the Humanities Center at Oregon State University.

By Nick Houtman

Nick Houtman is director of research communications at OSU and edits Terra, a world of research and creativity at Oregon State University. He has experience in weekly and daily print journalism and university science writing. A native Californian, he lived in Wisconsin and Maine before arriving in Corvallis in 2005.