How does a person make history? Please name one person who made history and discuss why the individual has historical significance.

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alohaspirit's profile pic

alohaspirit | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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A person can make history by contributing to society in a significant way by creating new policies that will help the citizens of the country, by creating a new invention that will improve our way of life, by showing compassion to others through charity work, and so on.  One person that ultimately comes to mind is Martin Luther King Jr.  Our country was separated by race and this one man who was not even a politican created this amazing change for our country.  He was able to bring many races together and fight for the equal rights for all. This one man changed the way America viewed the diversity in our country, and we have been moving forward since that point.  He is an inspiration to all around the world.

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morrol | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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One person to make history was Walt Whitman. Before Whitman, poetry was metrical and rigid. Whitman decided to make poetry for everybody. His influence can be seen in the poetry of everybody from the beats, to Tu Pac.
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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In order to be remembered by history, a person needs to do, say, or create something so remarkable that multitudes of people will remember for a long time. Sometimes that memorable thing will overshadow other, notable acts a person has done. For instance, we will always remember George W. Bush for the tough economic times at the end of his term, and we are apt to forget that we breathed a sigh of relief that it was he who was the president (and not the other guy) after Sept. 11, 2001.

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Every person on the planet has the potential to make history. Think about it,if you and perhaps a few others bury a time capsule (a metal container that will withstand the elements) in 1977, it might include current event articles, death certificates, birth certificates, music, art, personal letters to a boy or girl with the sentiments from the bottom of anothers heart from that year. When it is excavated in 2077, just 100 years later you are all history!! It is an interesting concept for most people, however when asked most cannot give an explanation of what they want their legacy to be. Somewhere between ones' life and their expectation of legacy lies 'history'. Having said that, I understand your questions' intentions. How does a person become historically relevant(in the big picture)? I think it is a combination of a keen sense of self, the where with all to distinguish between ideology and reality,understanding the meaning of 'legacy' and the historical circumstances under which they experience their life. To name a few historical figures from American history;

1-George Washington: Whose early military experience in The French and Indian War was marked by bad judgement and mistakes. However the plight of the American colonies, their belief in his potential, and his unwavering determination led to his victory at Yorktown. He was the undisputed leader of the new nation and as a result was given the task of the first president of The United States. After serving two terms he voluntarily relinquished his power to return to his home. With this single act he cemented the idea that men could govern themselves without becoming tyrannical. He gave the people the power to decide on the nations' future, and he did it for the greater good not private gain.

2-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Who is considered the undisputed leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.This was an individual who when under the most inhumane circumstances never compromised his belief in the goodness of humanity. Even as horrible violence attacked his fellow citizen, King remained steadfast. It was the honorable and humane qualities that this man possessed that forced a nation to deal with its hypocrisy. He accomplished his task without humilating scores of people,(who probably deserved to be humilated) however the grace with which he acted and spoke shall always be remembered as one of the finest moments by an American in American history.

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adrigon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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A person makes history by doing something great or terrible in the right time or place.

I would argue that while Pink, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton are certainly popular now, they will not actually be in the history books in 20 years, while women like Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, and Ruth Ginsburg will be. Whether any of these women can be considered well-behaved is a different issue entirely.

Consider Christine Collins, the subject of Clint Eastwood's current movie, Changeling. She did something great, but something incredibly simple: she kept telling the truth in the fact of bullies and systemic abuse. While she did not single-handedly bring down the LAPD, she was a tipping point for how the public saw the power structure in Los Angeles.

Likewise, Rosa Parks did not single-handedly start the desegregationist movement, but she was the tipping point, simply because she did not stand up when ordered.

Emmett Till did not do anything great or terrible (he whistled at a white woman in the South in 1955), but what was done to him was terrible indeed, and sparked a lot of anger in the black community that came to a head when Rosa Parks was arrested.

Small things make history, and in other places and times, these things might have gone ignored, but in the climates in which these actions occurred, they led to change and movement in society.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Dictators, world leaders, religious leaders, inventors of great machines (or small ones that make life easier), musicians and actors--anyone who has a profound effect on many people.

There's a quote that I think applies here:  "Well-behaved women rarely make history."  While this isn't necessary true (Margaret Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth II, Anne Richards, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Audrey Hepburn just to name a few well-behaved and rather famous women), it does point out that those who behave poorly or radically do get attention:  Pink, Madonna, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, etc.....

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are so many historically significant people. I suggest you choose one with which you identify. Someone you respect will make this task more meaningful. For example, a particular athlete or artist could also fit the bill.
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thewanderlust878 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 3) Salutatorian

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There are individuals who make history every single day. Through advancements in technology, more people can be discovered for the things they do on a day-to-day basis, or inventing something, discovering a cure for a disease, etc. In the 21st century, it is easier to make history than ever before, because of the ability to communicate and showcase what people can do better than before. 

That being said, only a few people who make history are recognizable after hundreds of years. Some people are remembered for the good they did, such as Abraham Lincoln, but others are remembered for the terrible things they did, like Adolf Hitler. Some are best remembered for something they never wished to be remembered for, such as Henry VIII and his six wives. 

Hope this helps!

iloveflower94's profile pic

iloveflower94 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

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A person makes history just by existing. I feel there are two types of histories. 1: Bad history 2: Good history. People can create history just by being here on earth. Specially in America. We are accually making history right now. So basically a person makes history by existing in this world.

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