From MA to D.C.

Posted by Bill McCoy on Apr 14, 2015 2:00:00 PM

Over Spring Break, our colleagues in the Business Department took students on a fabulous weeklong excursion to Ireland. While we couldn't make it quite that far, last week's Easter Break provided an opportunity for 11 students in my 20th Century Genocide course to travel to Washington, D.C. to visit the United States Holocaust Museum. In the History Department, we're big believers in exposing our students to the world outside the classroom, and I always love the opportunities that these sorts of trips bring to engage with students in much richer and more personal ways. A five day roadtrip to D.C. and back proved to be quite a whirlwind, but an incredibly valuable experience for all of us.


We spent the better part of our first two days at the Museum. On Friday, we spent the day in the museum's research library, talking with members of the research staff, visiting research fellows, and also making time for students to work on their own semester research projects in the library. It was a great opportunity for us to learn from people with deep expertise in the field, and there really is nothing quite like working on a research project in a library specifically designed for research on that subject. Those were some seriously studious hours!

On Saturday, we returned to the museum to visit the public exhibit halls. Many of you have probably visited the museum and know just how powerful the images and sounds of its permanent exhibit really are - and how difficult they can be to describe afterwards. Walking through train cars that carried Jews towards the Treblinka extermination camp, it is difficult not to be overwhelmed with the sobering reality of this subject. I think all of us found ourselves wrestling with heavy questions in our hearts and our minds during that day.

It was for that reason that having the opportunity to attend Easter Sunday services at the National Cathedral the following morning was all the more rich and beautiful. As the voices of the choir opened the service with the invitation, "This is the day the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it," I was aware of the joy and hope of Easter in a way quite unlike any other Easter that I can recall. I have to admit, I really love those moments when my life as a professor and my life of faith intersect with one another in such richly meaningful ways. And I'm very grateful for the frequency with which these little graces interrupt my otherwise unremarkable life.

On top of all these things, we of course managed to squeeze in a reasonable amount of sightseeing in this remarkable city. I'd love for you to go check out our photo album if you're interested in knowing more about that part. My personal favorite (and my favorite thing to do in D.C. period) was visiting the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday night; I love to sit on the floor and read slowly through the words of his Second Inaugural Address. They never cease to inspire, but especially given the heavy subject of the trip, I was especially moved by Lincoln's closing invitation "to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." It was just the sort of challenge to which I can only say, "Amen!" Let it be so.


If you're interested in learning more about ENC's History Department, download the Fact Sheet.

Written by Bill McCoy

Dr. Bill McCoy is assistant professor and chair of the History Department at Eastern Nazarene College. Professor McCoy teaches The West in the World Since 1500, Africa in World History, Twentieth Century Genocide, and survey courses in European and World history. He has also led two travel courses to Swaziland themed around the History of Medical Missions. His doctoral dissertation, completed at Boston University, examined the history of leprosy care in southern Africa, with particular emphasis on missionary activities and the history of humanitarian aid in the region.

Topics: Academics, Campus Life