The value of Civil War seminars

July 19, 2008

The value of Civil War seminars

What do a factory worker from Baltimore, a history teacher from Chambersburg, Pa., a nurse from New Jersey and a priest from Australia have in common? They all attend Chambersburg Civil War Seminars! Indeed, since the founding of these events in 1989, more than 6,000 men and women from 38 different states and four foreign countries have trekked to our area to take part in these educational seminars.

These events have put us on the map, featuring top names in the Civil War field. Among them: James McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author; Ed Bearss, who has been a commentator on Ken Burns' "The Civil War" on PBS, as well as numerous documentaries on the History Channel; Edna Greene Medford of Howard University, who has appeared on both the History Channel and C-Span and James I. "Bud" Robertson, the author of the critically acclaimed biography of "Stonewall" Jackson," just to name a few.


We have even had actor Stephen Lange, well known for historical roles in movies such as "Gettysburg," "Gods and Generals" and "Tombstone."

But these events are more than just glorified confabs of Civil War buffs.

They bring in tourism dollars to both Franklin County and the four-state region. Seminar attendees frequently stay in town an extra day or so, spending money in local restaurants, hotels and gas stations, as well as other businesses. I know that some of these same folks come back to the area for visits even when we are not holding any seminars.

Studies show that the average tourist spends around $100 per day when traveling.

Start doing the math and it's not hard to figure out that these events and residual visits from folks that get the Franklin County and Cumberland Valley "bug" add up to sizable revenue pumped into the local economy.

Another important aspect of the Chambersburg Civil War Seminars is our emphasis on historic preservation and education. Over the years we have raised, through book raffles and auctions, more than $100,000. With this we have made sizable contributions to The Civil War Preservation Trust and other like-minded groups. We have also assisted local preservation efforts, such as the restoration of the Memorial Fountain on the square in Chambersburg. In addition, part of the money goes each year to a scholarship for deserving school teachers and students, and this allows them to attend our annual July seminar.

This year's event is "Gettysburg," a five-day seminar from July 23-27 that will include tours, lectures and panel discussions. Our group will get a private tour of the new Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center and Museum on the evening of July 26. For more information on our seminar, call 717-264-7101 or see the Web site, Participants can sign up for the entire seminar or particular sessions that appeal to them.

The auction, open to the public, will begin at 7:30 p.m., July 24, at Quality Inn & Suites, 1095 Wayne Ave.

Remember, your support of these events helps promote our local and regional Civil War heritage and preservation.

Ted Alexander of Greencastle, Pa., is chief historian at Antietam National Battlefield and the founder and coordinator of Chambersburg Civil War Seminars.

Industrial Revolution II

Just about everything we use - cars, trucks, buildings, homes, factories, etc., consumes far more energy than it has to. We have to redesign and remanufacture pretty much the whole country. Sounds terrible.

It's actually wonderful - reconceiving everything from scratch with zero-based design. It can be an imagineering revolution with industrial implications - we could call it the Second Industrial Revolution.

Keep in mind that the original Industrial Revolution only helped Americans because we did it ourselves, in the big cities and a thousand smaller towns. We didn't have it shipped over here and retailed to us in Big Box stores. It wasn't "Made in China." It was made here, by us, and that's why it provided the economic momentum to transform us from a small-farm, agrarian economy to a modern, complex economy.

Excellent high-paying jobs, in large numbers, right here, will be ours if we are smart enough to keep them. In the last 50 years, basically since World War II, our diplomacy has been so weak and ineffectual that only by routinely and massively bribing other nations could we get anybody to listen to us, or allow us to shape their world.

The bribe was free and open access to U.S. markets with no corresponding trade reciprocity on the part of any other nation.

We gave this bribe to many nations. This was our bargaining chip. Without it, no one would sit down to talk to us. With it, everyone would pretend to listen as long as the next unilaterally advantageous so-called "trade" deal was signed on time. Not trade really, just a legal ticket to one-way access to the largest, richest marketplace on earth.

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