Elizabethtown College President speaks on U.S. entry into World War I
April 20, 2017   //   By:   //   Arts & Culture, Arts and Culture, Research and Academics

With almost every spot filled in 11 rows of wall-to-wall seating, the Winter’s Alcove of Elizabethtown College’s High Library was packed as the group waited to hear President Carl Strikwerda speak on “April, 1917: Why Did America Get Into World War I?”

The Tuesday, on April 11, lecture was a precursor to a series of events coming to campus throughout the year, as this month marks the 100th anniversary of America’s entrance into World War I.

Senior English major Kayleigh Kuykendall commented on why the lecture was so packed. “Having the President of the College speaking helped draw people in,” she said. “He knows his history.”

As a specialist in modern European history and a published author of articles on international history, Strikwerda is able to speak on the momentous occasion of April 1917.

We should learn from history but believe we can also change it.”

“We’re lucky he has an interest and knowledge of World War I history,” said director of the Center for Global Understanding and Peacemaking and professor of history David Kenley.

Strikwerda began the lecture by explaining the significance of America’s entrance into World War I.  By 1917, the Allies and Germany were at a stalemate, with both sides skeptical a compromise could be reached, he said, pointing out it is important to look at the choices they faced.

“There are many lessons for us, today, in this story from 100 years ago,” he said.

According to Strikwerda, the intervention of the United States became an issue when Germany got new commanders and proceeded to engage in unrestrained submarine warfare. When submerged, submarines are incredibly lethal, he said. Germany knew that using this tactic could result in sinking ships belonging to the largest neutral country, America.

When the Lusitania sank, there were 128 Americans among those who drowned. Strikwerda compared the “horrific” event of “unprecedented warfare” to this century’s 9/11 catastrophe. He said it was met by many Americans with indignation and fear, causing Germany to appear as a threat to America. And this was a part of what allowed President Woodrow Wilson to argue that Germany was a threat to democracy.

“The decision to engage in hostilities is a fundamental problem for society,” Strikwerda said, “but we have not progressed very far in this area since then.”

Strikwerda opened the floor for a number of audience questions and invited attendees to view a display of graphic design works by students in Katherine Hughes’ visual communications course and enjoy a dessert reception.

“We should learn from history,” Strikwerda said, “but believe we can also change it.”

~ E-town NOW guest writer is Samantha Kick is a senior English professional writing major with a theatre performance minor. She has previously written for the Etownian and E-town NOW. Her visions for the future involve a pen, paper and the Oxford comma.

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