The present is built on the past. What happened yesterday affects today and tomorrow. To deny this is foolish. You have to pay attention to the mistakes that have been made before, and the successes, in determing what route to take.
The issue presented here seems to turn on the question of "why study history?" Obviously we need to learn from the mistakes of the past, and not repeat them. History, however is much more than that. To believe that it is only a study of past wrongs and mistakes with the aim of not repeating them is cynical to the core. History also provides one with a sense of identity, how we got to the point that we did. Certainly, history has plenty of downsides, but then there are events like Magna Carta, the 14th Amendment, the Constitution of the U.S. which point that it's not all accident avoidance, nor should we construe it that way.
I think we need to be aware of how forgetting our history and our successes and failures, both locally and globally, is a recipe from disaster. We are the product of many different choices, mistakes, failures, successes and victories that have occurred over long periods of time, and such quotes help us to remember how vitally imporant understanding the process of events that have produced us and our time today is. Forgetting heralds disaster.
As everyone knows, those who reject their past will not find their future. Equally, those who do not accept where they came from, deny themselves their future journey. Agreeing with the previous posters, history has a tendency to repeat itself. We have had 2 World Wars, a number of civil wars around the world, and it seems as if humans simply go on making the same mistakes over and over. However, these incidents only happen when we refuse to see the signs of the time, and when we pretend that things can fix themselves without the intervention of common sense. This being said, one must always face forward with a caution not to follow the unhealthy patterns of the past.
I agree with pohnpei. We stand, now, where we do because of events that have transpired in the past. Some of the events have advanced us (or our cause); some of the events have delayed us (or our cause.) Only be learning from the mistakes we have made through history will we be able to make the choices that continue to advance our growth.
To me, this is pretty similar to the saying that "those who forget history are doomed to repeat it." It is saying that if we don't look back at where we came from, we won't get to where we are trying to go.
I think that this saying is telling us that we have to understand our past in order to help us know what to do in the future. In this way, it is related to history because it is telling us that we must study history in order to help ourselves make progress in the future.