Sara Jane Ruggles

By SARA JANE RUGGLES/Special To The Press
| March 7, 2021 1:00 AM

This is a fascinating time to be a public historian. The eldest members of our society have witnessed our world go from an analog to a digital existence. During this time, the email replaced the postage stamp, mass and instant communication replaced the need for the social hall, and where one generation looked up to the sky watching rockets take satellites into space, we now look down at the screens which receive their signals.

To someone born in the early to mid-20th century, the world looks as if everyone and everything has changed. But, has it? Does technology change human nature or is it human nature to use what is at our disposal in order to communicate more effectively?

In my opinion, exploration of this question requires the conversation of a lifetime. A deep discussion between two people born in different eras. Last week, I was honored to have facilitated such a conversation when we recorded our newest podcast for the Museum of North Idaho, which I lovingly named Seniors and Seniors.

In recognition of National Women’s History Month, this conversation featured two inspiring women: Mary Lou Reed, who was born in 1930 and has been a resident of Coeur d’Alene for 65 years; and Kennedy Krajack, who was born in 2003 and is a senior at Lake City High School.

Mary Lou is an accomplished writer and politician, having served for 12 years in the Idaho State Senate. She is a loving mother, wife, and friend, and has championed many causes in our state including the advancement of environmental protections and human rights.

Kennedy is an amazing young woman whose family has called Coeur d’Alene home for generations. She is Valedictorian of her graduating class, is very active in student leadership, and plans to study pre-med in the hope of becoming a pediatric surgeon. These two ladies are kindred spirits in their shared desire to make a positive impact on their community, yet their stories are separated by time and technology.

In our discussion, Mary Lou and Kennedy explored the differences and similarities in their individual experiences of applying for college, the expectations on young women going into the workforce, and being socially aware of the needs within their own community. The willingness of both ladies to listen and understand the other was inspiring.

Mary Lou, who attended Mills College (class of 1952) and did graduate work at Columbia, was fascinated by Kennedy’s description of what it takes to set herself apart from the throng of college applicants in a world where her digital presence is often her first impression to college boards and potential employers. Mary Lou’s stories invigorated Kennedy’s drive to contribute to public service. They were able to ask each other questions, grow from their shared knowledge, and bridge the generational gap on the subject of technology.

Can we fault the young generations of today for utilizing the technology available to them, especially when their future employers will expect them to be fluent in all digital platforms? After all, the generations that came before us pioneered telegraphs, radios, type-writers, telephones, televisions, car phones, computers, all of which paved the way for the internet. They each used these tools to get the job done.

Between Mary Lou, Kennedy, and myself, our experiences spanned the entirety of the computer age, making this episode a great conversation for today’s listeners and a captivating artifact for tomorrow’s historians.

You can find my conversation with Mary Lou and Kennedy on the newest episode of Confessions of History Geeks by visiting www.museumni.org.