We love this photo because it turns that famous George Santayana quote on its head:
Those who learn from history are blessed to not repeat it.
Egyptians are learning. They have intimate knowledge of Pharaohs, past and present, and they’ve had enough. The huddled masses in Cairo are yearning to breathe free.
What’s tragic is that National Geographic — which once celebrated democracy and human rights — now offers so little sustenance for the difficult journey ahead. Consider…
(At NGS, there’s never enough Pharaoh.)
National Geographic once told stories that celebrated democracy,
… but not anymore.
Evidently, Editor Chris Johns considers such subjects old-fashioned. Or parochial.
Or bad for business: Some of our international partners
don’t like it when we bring up democracy.
So, we don’t.
What about our Society’s Explorers-in-Residence?
Do any of them champion freedom and democracy?
The only person in this group who enthusiastically celebrated The Democracy Story is historian Stephen Ambrose (above, bottom right; and, at right), who wrote biographies of U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, as well as the critically acclaimed Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. Ambrose won the George Marshall Award, the Teddy Roosevelt Award, the Department of the Army Award for Distinguished Public Service, the Abraham Lincoln Literary Award, the Will Rogers Memorial Award, the Bob Hope Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and the National Humanities Award. The U.S. Department of Defense awarded Ambrose their Medal for Distinguished Public Service. According to National Geographic:
It was Ambrose’s devotion to telling the stories of ordinary soldiers of World War II that defines his passion for history and his legacy. “I was ten years old when the war ended,” he was quoted as saying. “I thought the returning veterans were giants who had saved the world from barbarism. I still think so.”
Stephen Ambrose died in 2002. Since then, the National Geographic Society has
• launched 12 new local language editions of National Geographic magazine, including versions in Arabic, Russian, and Chinese;
• changed its mission statement, which now reads: To inspire people to care about the planet;
• failed to appoint a new Explorer-in-Residence who might share Mr. Ambrose’s passion for American history and Western values.
Three questions for you, John Fahey:
1. Why don’t we have an Explorer-in-Residence who can recognize barbarism and call it by its proper name (as did Mr. Ambrose)?
2. Who at our Society will speak up to support the heroes in Cairo’s Tahrir Square who are struggling to escape the iron grip of Pharaoh? (Our Society’s man in Egypt — Explorer-in-Residence Zahi Hawass — just joined President Mubarak’s new cabinet, so we don’t expect to hear a peep out of him.)
3. Why are you unwilling to answer our questions?
John rarely, if ever, gives interviews.
But we’re asking for one — partly to hear his answers to these questions —
and you can help by clicking “Recommend,” below.
Don’t have a Facebook account? Or prefer not to show your face? That’s okay.
Just email me — alan [at] societymatters [dot] org — and
I’ll raise our Anonymous But Curious tally by one.
(It’s under the Facebook widget in the right sidebar.)