As newspapers fade into the background of digital media, it seems possible that tomorrow’s business leaders may view print journalism as a quaint anachronism. But at least one group of students from Montgomery County’s Eastern Middle School will enter the workforce with the benefit of history. Last weekend, a team from that school wowed judges at the Maryland History Day competition with a performance about Katharine Graham, the renowned mid-twentieth century publisher of the Washington Post. Thanks to the research that went into that performance, those students understand the vital role the paper once played in shaping politics and culture—even if, as members of the digital generation, they never learn how to manipulate unwieldy sheets of newsprint on their morning commute.
History Day isn’t just a Maryland institution. It’s a nationwide event that inspires children and teens from every state to go beyond their classroom lessons and dig deeply into the past. In June, the best of the resulting papers, performances, and exhibitions will be presented at a final, national competition in the Washington, D.C., area. Right now, the state-level competitions are in full swing.
This year, History Day’s theme is “The Individual in History: Actions and Legacies.” While many contestants focus on politicians and explorers, athletes and activists, some students—like the Eastern Middle School team—are drawn to the businessmen (and women) who helped shape industry around the globe. Industrialist John D. Rockefeller and inventor Henry Ford are among the historical businessmen whose stories students will present at this year’s national competition.
We wish all of History Day’s student historians the best of luck at the final competition—and at the state-level competitions still in progress. But we’ll be rooting especially hard for those who’ve chosen to focus on entrepreneurs and executives, because they understand—perhaps precociously—that business history matters.