Volunteer Spotlight: Mike Masters
WWI "is truly the birthplace of the modern world"
By Betsy Anderson
Coordinator of Volunteers, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission
Every few weeks, we like to showcase the efforts of our remarkable Centennial Commission volunteers. Today, we bring you the story of Mike Masters, who is managing the WW1CC's exhibition booth activity. In his short time on board, Mike has told the Centennial Commission story to thousands of people at several convention events around the Washington DC area. Mike is a Foreign Service Retiree and WW1 history enthusiast. He is helping with events in the DC area, and staffed the Commission information booths at the Belgian Embassy Europe Day event, and the Daughters of the American Revolution Service to America night.Mike Masters
Welcome to the WW1CC Team! Where are you coming from, what was your earlier career?
I spent a career living overseas, both as poor English teacher living in Japan, and later in multiple countries in the Foreign Service before retiring in 2015. My wife's grandfather fought on the German side in World War One. My children are in college and wonder why their dad has this odd interest but liked the chocolate I got when we were at the Belgian Embassy.
What an amazing background & set of skills! How did you hear about the Centennial Commission, and how did come to decide to help us?
I attended a meeting of the World War One Historical Association and heard a presentation by Commissioner Monique Brouillet Seefried who also showed the 7 minute video narrated by Gary Sinise about efforts to build a World War One Memorial. I decided that I wanted to help these efforts, and as time goes on, I more and more feel how much we owe the people who served in World War One and how in previous decades they have become the "Forgotten Generation." There are no more World War One veterans who can speak for themselves, so it is the duty of all of us to speak on their behalf.
What do you hope to achieve through your volunteer efforts with the Centennial Commission? Why is this effort, this mission, important to you?
I hope to see that the importance of World War One to who we are as a nation is not forgotten. I hope to learn more about World War One and how it changed America and the World. I hope to share my passion for the amazing people and stories of the World War One era.
Can you tell us an interesting story or fact you have learned about WW1 or its causes or consequences?
There are so many. This truly was a dividing line, not just for America but for the world. The world of 1914 seems so very distant, but the world of 1918 seems so familiar. We think that we are living in a world of vast technological change, but the people of that world were dealing with changes so much greater, at a pace which must have been very hard to understand. So much of what we think of as making the modern world, including aircraft, electricity , electronic communications, and vast developments in chemistry, physics and medicine, came about in just a few years before the war, and for the people who fought and lived through those events it must have seemed to be an H.G. Wells novel come to life, with all its grandeur and horror. A 20 year old soldier in 1914 was born into a world not so different from that of past centuries, especially if he was raised outside of large cities, but by the time the war was over it must have seemed to the people of that era that they no longer lived on the same planet. The social changes that came with this were greater than anything we have had to deal with in past decades, as hard as that is for many of us to believe. It is truly the birthplace of the modern world.
Do you have an interest in America in World War I and some time available? Sign up here to be a volunteer for the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. Going to college and looking for a great internship opportunity in Washington, DC? Look into the Commission Intern program.
WWI memorial plan draws critics in D.C.; Arkansas designer says it’s ‘evolving’
By Frank E. Lockwood
via the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette
WASHINGTON -- Members of the National Capital Planning Commission raised questions about plans for a new World War I memorial Thursday, questioning how the proposal could best complement the existing park's design.
Joseph Weishaar, lead designer for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC.The federal planning agency asked numerous questions about a proposed Gulf War memorial that also needs its approval. They focused, primarily, on where to place it.
Discussion of the World War I monument, including public testimony, lasted nearly an hour, with critics objecting to nearly every aspect of the proposal: the topography, the trees, the walkways, the water fountains and the flagpole.
One commissioner also objected to New York City sculptor Sabin Howard's artwork, suggesting the preliminary sketches were insufficiently diverse for a 21st-century audience.
"I just want to say I don't see a lot of women," said Eric Shaw, director of D.C.'s planning office. "If we're thinking about contemporary memorials, we have to have contemporary representation."
Fayetteville native Joe Weishaar, the lead designer of the World War I proposal, sat on the front row and listened calmly as critics repeatedly faulted the project.
Afterward, he said he would work to address the objections raised by the commissioners.
The design is still a work in progress, he said. "It's always evolving."
Weishaar, a graduate of the University of Arkansas' Fay Jones School of Architecture, was picked to design the project in January 2016 after winning an international competition.
Read more: WWI memorial plan draws critics in D.C.; Arkansas designer says it’s ‘evolving’