Guest column: World travel changes us all


As one who has a hankering for learning, specifically about other governmental organizations, and enjoys traveling to the European Union (EU), it always behooves me to consider how Europe has overcome monumental odds over “centuries of existence,” and how they have recognized that change is good.

Many of those EU countries celebrate that change now and include it into the title of “diversity”.

We all know that change is the only thing that is constant. This is good because with change usually comes opportunities to grow spiritually, mentally, physically, financially, and it can, if positioned correctly, help improve our own personal quality of life; however you define that.

Change also provides an opportunity to utilize new talents. And, with new talents comes new experiences. New experiences bring different outlooks, visions, and resources; which invariably propels us to ascend higher and maximize our God given talents.

While visiting the EU we are always blessed to visit different cities and observe the changes that have occurred in those areas. On a more recent trip we visited Berlin the International City; visited the Bundestag, seat of the German Federal Parliament, Brandenburg Gate; Berlin City Hall; Holocaust Memorial; and even ventured into the former Duetsche Democratic Republic or DDR as it is known in English.

Subsequently, visiting the Berlin Wall and Beeskow (DDR) were the most humbling; because the cold war is over and the wall that separated East and West Germany is now just a faded memory.

While there, the reflections from my past resurfaced and it took me back to my time studying political science at the University of Maryland as well as my time working for the Reagan/Bush Administration in the late 1980’s.

Like you I remember watching former President Reagan on television saying “Mr. Gorbachov tear down this wall.” Some twenty plus years later the opportunity presented itself to visit the site and see reminisce of the wall that divided East and West Germany.

Today, we hear politicians talking about building a wall across the Texas border to separate Mexico. Uh, hello!

Traveling abroad will humble and change you, as it has me. And, as things change, we grow and mature; looking at things differently. It is truly remarkable how all of the European community and the American South have changed.

Subsequently, I’d imagine those early Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Black seafarers who had or made the opportunity to sail the world like Bartolomeu Dias, Hernando de Soto, Esteban, Juan Las Caranes, Juan DeGuardo, Ponce de Leon, Pedro Menendez, Vasca de Gama, Amerigo Vespucci, Christopher Columbus, and others felt the same.

They realize not only that the world was not flat, but that if we are wise and Sauvé, we can make our own opportunity, fortune, or just leave a mark on society for generations to come.

More specifically, our hometown of St. Augustine has changed. However, Dana Ste. Claire is handling his responsibility as The City of St. Augustine’s Director of the Heritage Tourism Department, and Executive Director of the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission remarkably well, and both organizations will also leave a mark on generations to come.

When we consider the changes the other older and more established countries have gone through, while aligning that with out past, it is awesome to realize that the City of St. Augustine has prospered tremendously as the oldest occupied European settlement in America over the course of the last 444 years — and we will continue to prosper past the 450th.

Frankly, I am proud that my people are from this remarkable place we call home.

Like you, I have gone through change and will experience more. We experience change when we hit twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, etc., when we get married, when we change positions, venture out on our own as entrepreneurs or capitalists, and when a parent or siblings dies.

Consequently, if you always remember to stay positive and that change is growth, you’ll be fine. You will hopefully grow in faith and spirit as well. So, when your time is up, and you are heading home, and the only boss (God) is breathing down your neck, he can either say, “Is that all you did with your talents?” or “Well done, good and faithful servant. You maximized all the talents I have given you.”

I prefer the latter. And, you?

Funny thing. As I quickly approach 45 on November 11th, I realize why my mom and dad made us travel to St. Augustine so many times as kids. And, why they made sure we knew the history of this great and awesome place. The place I like to call the “Birthplace of Freedom.”

They never wanted us to forget where we came from, and trust me we never will.

My dad liked to call himself just a “poor southern boy”….PUH that was the farthest thing from the truth, but do understand why he humbled himself to his honorable phrase just a “poor southern boy, who also happened to have traveled extensively throughout the world!”

Derek Boyd Hankerson
St. Augustine, FL

Derek Boyd Hankerson is the Managing Partner of Freedom Road, LLC. Derek is former vice president of the St. Johns County Republican Executive Committee and was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention. Derek has been a leader in numerous community projects in support of Fort Mose, multicultural education and heritage tourism. Historic City News is pleased to be able to publish Derek’s periodic guest columns which are both informative and entertaining. Derek and his wife live in St. Augustine.

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