[OP-ED]: Lessons from Herodotus for U.S. Latinos: History, and Journalism, its first draft, indeed matters
AL DIA first Hispanic Heritage Awards celebration in 2016.
This was the text of the introduction speech by the Founder & CEO of AL DIA News Media at the first annual “Latino History Awards Luncheon”, hosted by AL DIA at the Union League Club of Philadelphia, on September 21st, 2016
The official recording of the science we now called "History" began 484 years before Jesus Christ.
That year a man by the name of Herodotus was born in ancient Greece and over there he proposed a new discipline of studies he called “History.”
“The Father of History”, as he has been called for the past 2,000 years, was the first one to break from the Homeric tradition of epic writing of human affairs, a step down from the high-end art of literary writing created by Homer when he authored the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Herodotus, the more pragmatic Greek, thought that new writing, based on a more scientific collection of historical and factual data, arranged as a historic narrative, was also required in a civilized society.
Some of the initial Herodotus stories were “fanciful” and others “inaccurate,” reads Wikipedia, describing the early endeavors of the first official Historian of our Western civilization.
Herodotus might have been more prosaic than Homer, but he was not a fool. This is what he wrote in the introduction to “Researchers and Stories”, one of his early books.
“Here are presented the results of the inquiry carried out by Herodotus….”
And he went on to explain:
“The purpose of this is to prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time.”
“The purpose of this is to prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time,” he wrote.
Also, he said, it is to preserve the fame of important and remarkable achievements produced "by Greeks and non-Greeks." The civilized and the uncivilized. The citizens and the non-citizens.
So what does Greek Herodotus have to do with Americans of Latino descent like Nelson Diaz, Pedro Rivera, Pedro Cortes, Karla Narvaez-Hurley, and Pat De Carlo, — our awardees today?
Well, they are “the non-Greeks…”
Hear me well: Not "the Gringos”, but "the Non-Greeks" of today: The Latinos, the outsiders, the people often called now "undocumented" — which they truly are in more than one way.
Almost like the uncivilized, the non-Greeks — the yet to be fully documented in American history and recognized publicly for their worth in our current society — the ones left out from the official historical accounts. Undercounted by the Census and misrepresented by the media, they are often our invisible and misunderstood fellow Americans, our neighbors absent from 21st-Century America's public record, be media or government or academic annals.
Thank God, AL DÍA's unique brand of cross-cultural Journalism is here to help a bit.
Journalism in general has been called “the first draft of history.”
Our founding fathers were keenly aware of its importance.
So much so that they made sure one amendment in our constitutional arrangement — the remarkable First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States — would be enacted to protect it, up to today, 240 years after the foundation of our Republic here in Philadelphia.
As a result, the profession of Journalism is revered in our nation, and the basic human right for free expression of individuals, enshrined in our U.S. Constitution, is a towering standard the United States is admired and respected for by nations across the globe.
What AL DÍA is doing today is not only exercising that right but also contributing to improving the public record and do justice to men and women of exceptional accomplishments that have preceded us. in 5 areas of human endeavor: Education, Government, Justice, Civic Works, and Business.
As Herodotus did, we do believe today that history is a science and, as such, must not be taken lightly.
Journalism, "the first draft of history," is on the other hand an institution of our Democracy, and a pillar of our Republic we can't afford to neglect.
Journalism, that "first draft of history," is on the other hand an institution of our Democracy, and a pillar of our Republic we can't afford to neglect.
Unless we want to return to cruel Tyranny — as Greece did — or to abject poverty— now rampant in the formerly enlightened and prosperous Athens, the capital of the ancient Greek Empire.
We selected for this occasion a small but representative sample of achievement, narrowing down our natural search on the “non-Greeks:
The Latinos”, or ‘non-gringos,’ as I am calling them today in jest, as I haven't seen them on the front page of the local newspaper of record, despite their notorious accomplishments.
They most likely won't make it there unless they run into trouble with the law, indicted by authorities, or found guilty by the courts; these faces will be hard to find on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer or Philadelphia Magazine.
The two Pedros, members of the Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf cabinet, Patricia, Nelson, and Karla, are however our champions of our most recent, and undocumented history we want now intend to complete.
That’s why we picked them and decided to leave for this journalistic record their uncommon personal stories, which are now part of our common American history.
That history, by the way, is not just Latino History, often separated, put aside, demeaned by names like "minority" or "ethnic".
It is, in reality, our common history: The Great American History of the 21st Century, permeated throughout by the Latino experience, in Education as it is in Government, Justice, Civic Works and Business, the fields represented by our honorees today.
To honor Herodotus, let's make our great American History of the New Millennium whole, complete, and comprehensive, starting from here, in Philadelphia — where it all started — a city that still can be the shining torch on top of the hill with a light powerful enough to illuminate an entire continent, as it did 240 years ago.