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Titanic's 100th Anniversary: Learning from the past

By Elisabeth Turner, Columnist

Many of us are familiar with the RMS Titanic's story. The great liner set sail from Southampton, England on April 10 1912, and was scheduled to arrive in New York City on April 17. Its maiden voyage became its last however, when it struck an iceberg at approximately 11:40 p.m. on April 14, amidst the waters of Newfoundland's Iceberg Alley.                         

It has been said that the primary overseer of the ship's design team Thomas Andrews, was heroic until his death that night, that he put women and children first in all matters of safety.             

Prior to the RMS Titanic's departure, Andrews had put total confidence in the ship's indestructibility; he believed that the ship could not founder because of its ability to stay afloat even in the case that four of its watertight compartments became flooded with water. It has been noted that - when it had been ascertained that the ship was indeed sinking - Benjamin Guggenheim, an American businessman, said he was dressed in his best, prepared to go down as a gentleman.            

Accounts of the ship's last hours will always be varied, some truer than others. Yet, its story rings true for all of society, its past, present and future. Titanic was the epitome of Edwardian era luxury, a symbol of human power, of the extensive security and comforts of advancing technology. These men - and perhaps all of humanity at the time - truly believed that a period in which human capability and intelligence could not be limited by the forces of nature, of God or of any other unprecedented circumstances, had been reached.                                                  

The early twentieth century yielded to many new innovations, including electric light and aeronautical engineering. Humans were utilizing power in ways that had previously been thought of as entirely implausible, and when the RMS Titanic sunk, people all over the world were struck with horror.           

Yet, 100 years later, humans are still speeding on full steam ahead, into the depths of knowledge and power, into the realms of science and reasoning. Most Americans buy food from the local grocery store, packages filled with all manner of genetically modified ingredients and preservatives. Others are pressured by the demands of an increasingly superficial society. Morality trickles down, relativity expands and technology surpasses technology.              

Students attending universities claim to do so in order to secure themselves a well-paying job in the future, one that simultaneously allows them to follow their passions. The world's youth are its future, yet they are often oblivious to the lessons and values of the past. As Hofstra students, we should take advantage of the knowledge that our professors are entrusting with us, of the values that our elders have instilled within us. There may be no one capable of saving the world, but anyone can renew it if they choose to look past themselves, past competition and self-righteousness, and into the well-being of humanity. The RMS Titanic was vast in scale, beautiful in design and more powerful than any other ship of its time.

Yet, it was human failure that ultimately led to its destruction. By recognizing the mistakes of yesterday, we can prevent them from happening again tomorrow. Let's be authentic, not hollow. Let's look back at the RMS Titanic and reflect. Then, let us sail on.

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Hofstra's Presidents throughout the years