I can remember it like it was yesterday. Flop! The atlas-sized exam hit the rickety student desk in front of me. I was a deer in headlights. A year’s worth of notes had been erased completely from my memory. How could this happen? American history had been my best subject all year and I could not remember a thing. What was I going to do? If I failed this test I could be condemned to another year of junior high school, and lose my chance of trying out for the FDR High School baseball team. I had to pass this test. I had to pass!
Then, suddenly, I remembered a Saturday afternoon when my family and I went to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum. My memories of that visit were as clear as day. I could picture every exhibit about the Roosevelts, the President’s car, and FDR’s Private Study, which he used to deliver some of his famous “fireside chats.”
I flipped through the essay questions, and quickly spotted one that I could answer. “What was President Roosevelt’s ‘Day of Infamy’ speech about?” Yes! I knew this one! My number 2 pencil tried to keep up with the memories that raced through my head of my day at the museum. Surely, I was on my way to an “A.” Then, all of a sudden, my writing hand came to a screeching stop. In an awkward pause I asked myself, “Was Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 or 1942?” Oh, no…
Today, I am proud to say that I passed my eighth grade American history exam, and now work in my home town of Hyde Park, New York as the Special Events Coordinator for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. I have worked at the Presidential Library for almost 6 years coordinating conferences, education programs, and group tours. I also operate audiovisual equipment for public functions at the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center, and Pare Lorentz Film Center.
There are still times when I think back to that test and wonder what might have happened if I didn’t pass. Let’s just say that I’m glad that I remembered the year 1941.