Meet Hannah Alms
Hannah Alms says she’s looking forward to opportunities to learn and grow at Wake Forest, especially the chance to conduct research. She hopes to study abroad.
Tell us about your IB history project on George Washington myths.
I examined how two biographies of George Washington reflected the time periods in which they were written. One biography, “The Life and Memorable Actions of George Washington,” by Mason Locke Weems, originally published in 1800, is the source of most of the well-known myths about Washington, including the cherry tree “I cannot tell a lie” story. The young United States needed a Washington of deified proportions, because they were a weak and divided nation. The other work I studied, the three volume “George Washington,” published in the late 1920s by Rupert Hughes, humanized Washington to the point of stretching the historical record. Hughes’s work was the first biography to attempt to portray Washington as a flawed human being. This more realistic view of Washington was possible in the 1920s, because at this point, the U.S. was an imperial and economic force, and Americans were more confident.
This project was the first time I had ever heard of historiography – the study of history as a discipline. Now that I’ve been exposed to this way of examining the past, I am a more conscientious reader and writer of nonfiction. Additionally, I have a better understanding of the benefit of approaching an academic issue from an unexpected angle.
If you could travel back in time, where would you go?
I would travel to late 19th-century America. I recently finished a book about James Garfield’s assassination “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President,” by Candice Millard, and it captivated me. I find it fascinating that something that could be so tragically formative and important at the time is now largely forgotten. The death of the President was obviously a huge issue at the time, but today Garfield and the potential his presidency might have had are largely disregarded in the general story of American history. I’d like to travel to the time before Garfield’s death to understand how American history might have been different had he not been assassinated.
You paid for a trip to Europe by working as a nanny. Tell us about that experience.
I did nanny to help fund my trip to Europe – full time for two summers and part time during the school year. I then travelled to London, Paris, Lucerne, Florence, and Rome. My favorite aspect of Europe is the immediacy of history there. There’s a reminder of the past almost everywhere you turn. Districts in London have the same name they did in the time of Henry VIII. People worship in cathedrals commissioned by bishops long dead and mostly forgotten. It’s a history nerd’s dream come true! The awareness to learn as much as possible is probably the most important skill from my travels that I’ll apply to my college career. I finally understand why my mom would always insist we stop at every historical marker. I learned how important it is to take every opportunity given to you to learn and experience. Try every strange entree, examine every painting, enter every cathedral.
What book or film has inspired you in your life and in what way?
The novel “Paradise of the Blind,” by Duong Thu Huong, is one of the most beautifully written works I’ve read. The book made me appreciate the power of language and led me to hold my own writing to a higher stander. The complex social commentary in the novel — Huong points out flaws in Communist Vietnam as well as in traditional Vietnamese culture — is an important reminder that no way of life is wholly good or right.
What clubs or organizations do you think you would like to join?
I’d like to be involved in the Lutheran Student Movement and the Concert Choir. Wake Forest also has many community service opportunities, and I definitely plan on being involved in them.
Imagine yourself on graduation day in four years. What will you be thinking?
I’ll be thinking of everyone who has helped me get to that point and of the wonderful experiences I’ve had. Hopefully, I’ll have done my best and grown as a student and as a person. Really though, I don’t think I can yet begin to appreciate how much these next four years will mean to me.