This is a more solemn email than is usual. I recognize that this email
reflects my personal view, and if this email is not something that you
appreciate then I invite you to disregard it and write your own email
regarding something that makes you happy or grateful this week.

The 11th of November is commemorated in some parts of the world as
Armistice Day, Remembrance Sunday, or Veterans Day. The year 2018 marks the
100th anniversary of Armistice Day. I would like to take a moment to
reflect on the subject of Armistice Day, and on the roles of Wikimedia --
especially Wikipedia -- in sharing knowledge of history and being a
repository of our collective memory.

"Armistice Day is commemorated... to mark the armistice signed between the
Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation
of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at
eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the
eleventh month" of 1918." [1 <>]
World War I was one of the deadliest conflicts in human history, with a
total of approximately 17 million civilian and military deaths. [2

I would like to share a story.

John McCrae (photo here
was a medical doctor and Canadian soldier during World War I. He wrote a
famous poem, “In Flanders Fields
The poem refers to the red poppies that grew over the graves of soldiers
who died in the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium. There are variants of
the wording of the poem. I quote one of them below.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place; and in the sky
  The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
  Loved and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
  The torch; be yours to hold it high!
  If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields."

Here are a few images:

* Poppies in the sunset on Lake Geneva, Montreux, Switzerland

* Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

* Remembrance Day 2010 in Ottawa, Canada

* Memorial of "In Flanders Fields"

In our contemporary world where there are many disputes about history,
resources are limited, and sometimes it is difficult to be optimistic about
human nature, I am especially grateful for Wikipedia's aspiration to be a
place to share neutral, reliable, and verifiable information with an open

Wikimedia has remarkable success at being a collaborative endeavor for the
education and information of humanity. Wikimedia content is collaboratively
developed by thousands of diverse individuals, many of whom are volunteers
and never meet in person. Content that is shared on Wikimedia sites is
viewed by millions of people around the world. Although we sometimes
caution the public that Wikipedia is not a primary source, for many people
Wikipedia seems to be a good starting point, and the references that we
provide allow people to perform their own research regarding history and
many other topics.

Thank you to everyone who documents history on Wikimedia, and to the people
who support this effort behind the scenes. We all benefit from your
generosity to our common memory. By documenting and learning about our
history, I hope that we improve our understanding of ourselves and our
potential, and can make wise decisions about our future.

I close with a poem by Catherine Munro


One gateway to the wide garden
of knowledge, where lies
The deep rock of our past,
in which we must delve
the well of our future,
The clear water we must leave untainted
for those who come after us,
The fertile earth, in which
truth may grow in bright places,
tended by many hands,
And the broad fall of sunshine,
warming our first steps toward knowing
how much we do not know.

Ever onward,

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