Who the heck is Franklin Pierce?

Franklin Pierce – 14th U.S. President

About a month ago I finished reading a biography on Franklin Pierce. You know – Franklin Pierce – the 14th president of the United States. Franklin Pierce – the cause of the Republican Party’s introduction into the American political landscape. Franklin Pierce – the only president from New Hampshire. The reason the Kansas-Nebraska act came to fruition. Franklin Pierce was historically one of the worst presidents the U.S. has ever had. That’s probably why he’s not ringing a bell. That’s ok, you’re not alone. The reality is that most people have no clue who Franklin Pierce was or why he was important to the political landscape leading up to the Civil War. But he was a Northerner with a Southern sympathies and his decisions regarding slavery and newly admitted states would pave the way for the disintegration of the once lively Whig party and the introduction of the newly staunch opponents of slavery – the Republican party. His poor presidency and the decisions that came out of it, would set the North and South on collision course that would finally be realized some 20 years later. Franklin Pierce, though often forgotten, was an important cog in our nation’s history, especially as it relates to slavery in the U.S..

I write all that not because I want to write about Franklin Pierce, but rather to make a point. History is important. But so often, we (myself included) fail to understand just how much our current situation is shaped by history. History matters a great deal. And whether you enjoy the study of history or not, you’ve been undoubtedly shaped greatly by it.
Learning the history of our place while overlooking downtown San Diego
This past week we (NieuCommunities apprentices) had an awesome opportunity to learn about the history of our place. We spent a couple of hours learning how San Diego came to be the San Diego we know today. We spent time looking at some of the themes that arose from that history. Themes of “Boom and Bust,” “Partnership with Tijuana,” “Manifest Destiny,” “The Spanish Mission Movement” and the “War of Water” just to name a few. And what we found is that every one of those themes plays out one way or another within the narrative of our city and can be identified today. History has impacted this city more than I think we ever could realize. We also looked specifically at the history of our neighborhood. We learned how Golden Hill started as the premiere neighborhood within San Diego and over time changed and morphed into it’s 1990’s name “Heroin Hill” and then the metamorphosis into what San Diego magazine has just named the “Best up-and-coming” neighborhood in San Diego. 
A mural in San Diego’s Chicano Park.
An important and often forgotten part of San Diego’s history.
It’s fascinating to see how history really tells you a lot about a place. As people on mission I wonder how much more of an impact we could have if we were faithfully seeking where we’ve been and how that affects where a place is going. Knowing the history of a place allows you a window of sorts into the victories, pains, and needs of a community. But learning these things takes time. Each one of us is a product of history. Whether it’s the larger narrative of your country or culture’s history, or the the smaller more personal narrative of your life; history matters. History shapes us and history tells us a lot about people. I am thankful for our time learning the history of this place we now call home. I pray that we would be able to minister in light of what has happened in our cities, communities, neighborhoods and lives recognizing that our past shapes us, but doesn’t define us. It is our prayer that through learning the history of our place we would know how to better pray for, care for and invest in our neighbors and neighborhoods.  
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