Today is the duly appointed date for reviewing the past 365 days and looking ahead to the coming annum. Let's take a moment to think about 2011 ...
In February, I had the tremendous joy of seeing Michigan and the Civil War: A Great and Bloody Sacrifice appear in print. The reality of having a new book solely dedicated to the Michigan Civil War story left the author, well, speechless. But not for long! From there the year unfolded with signings, talks, appearances, amounting to around two dozen such events. It's difficult to evaluate all of the high points and pick one, but here goes: the enthusiasm of those folks who showed up to buy a book, have a book signed, hear me talk for a few minutes about Michigan's contributions to saving the Union, has to be the one thing that wowed me more than any other. From dedicated Civil War students to history buffs to the complete novice, I cannot think of one place where there wasn't a keen level of interest in the topic, in the story of our forebearers and their triumph in the face of great obstacles. If one had lost his/her faith in human nature, these two dozen times easily would have restored it. And especially, when looking out at faces who have been through so much these past years here in Michigan, who spent their own hard-earned money on this little book when they had other options, and for some who bought multiple copies ... well, it could be a challenge to keep emotions in check. That, more than anything (even seeing it on a shelf at the late lamented Ann Arbor Borders or the hanging-on Livonia Barnes & Noble) made the effort worthwhile.
Serving on the Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee of the Michigan Historical Commission has been a great honor. We've done a few good things -- played a small part in helping others get out the word about all of their great work -- and definitely plan not to lose momentum but to keep building on it as the commemoration continues. Many have pointed out how the Centennial fizzled. Just imagine if the same had occurred 150 years ago ... but it didn't. Much work needs to continue in '12.
The Commission continues to be a great source of joy, despite obstacles. Our work continues, though sometimes difficult. Michigan deserves its history, and more needs to be done to preserve and promote it. The loss of Sam Logan Wednesday closes out the year with sadness. Yet, he would not want it to be so. He was a hard and dedicated worker for good. I'm certain his advice would be 'keep on, don't give up, don't despair, just push onward' ... And so we shall.
Looking ahead, I the coming year will prove the most positive one in recent times for Michigan's history. I hope progress will be made on so many initiatives that are underway, and that only need someone to step forward and offer support. And I hope the book will continue in print, educating and perhaps inspiring its readers. I'm looking forward to more talks -- including one in Benzonia, Bruce Catton's boyhood hometown, in June.
Here's to a hopeful, happy, and healthy New Year 2012.