Windward Language Teacher Shares Historical Perspective

On Jan. 29, Windward Language teacher Brian Bernhards served as a guest speaker to JP deGuzman’s AP History class. On hand to discuss his family lineage and its connection to the Civil War, Brian opened his session by asking students how far back they could trace their respective family trees. While a few hands took to the air, the majority of students couldn’t name ancestors beyond their immediate family, something Brian acknowledged to be quite common at their age.

He then shared the unique circumstances that inspired him to look into his own family history, which began with the discovery of a strange document found in his grandparents’ attic, one signed by none other than Abraham Lincoln. By combing back through his family tree, Brian learned that he had an ancestor who had served in the Department of Subsistence during this time, doling out and managing sustenance for Union troops. That role earned him the aforementioned document, which turned out to be a certificate recognizing his service.

While the certificate itself is noteworthy, Brian was struck most by how easily this piece of history could have been destroyed or lost. As he admitted, it took until later in his adult life for him to really develop an interest in his ancestry, and he spoke earnestly on how fortunate he felt that the document had survived for years unbeknownst to anyone else in his family.

Brian ended his visit by encouraging students to be curious about their own family lines, reminding them of the importance of their history and how easily it could be lost. Students then got a chance to admire the signed Civil War certificate, which Brian had had restored since his initial discovery.

Thank you to Brian for sharing his unique and thoughtful perspective!
Windward School is a 7-12, co-educational, independent day school in Los Angeles, California.