In my U.S. history classes this semester, we’ve been covering important issues in the early 20th century, such as immigration and women’s voting rights.

My students at the public college where I teach have reminded me – and should remind all of us – of two things:

Women fought hard for voting rights, even enduring hunger strikes and beatings, and we should not take voting for granted.

 In connection to America’s democratic vision, immigrants came here to, in the words of one student, “escape corrupt governments and come to America because they will have the opportunity to have a voice.”

Another student reminds me that, historically, “America is a melting pot, a country made up of immigrants. We have stopped seeing this in recent years and come to believe that we became great by ourselves when in reality it took many different countries and millions of people from many backgrounds to make this country what it is.”

I teach history because I believe it helps us understand our present, sometimes offering useful lessons and sometimes cautionary tales.

It occurs to me that, in moving through these first months of 2017, lessons from the histories of voting rights and immigrant experiences never been more important or relevant, and I couldn’t be more proud of these young Mainers who also know this.

Allison Hepler