As a kid, I was growing up in an era of celebration of the Civil War centennial, with a lot of 'Lost Cause' emphasis on the Confederacy. I used to play Civil War soldiers with my brothers as a child, and my older brother always insisted that he got to be Lee, and I got be Grant. I never knew that Grant won until quite some time had passed.
As we have sought through the centuries to define ourselves as human beings and as nations through the prisms of history and literature, no small part of that effort has drawn us to the subject of war. We might even say that the humanities began with war and from war, and have remained entwined with it ever since.
Before the Civil War, there were no national cemeteries, no processes for identifying the dead in the battle. There weren't any dog tags, and there was no next-of-kin notification. You didn't necessarily even hear what the fate of your loved ones had been. It was up to their comrades to write and inform you.
I never planned my career. I never planned to be president of Harvard. People would have thought I was crazy, probably, at the age of 8 or 10 or 20, if I had said that. So what I would say to people planning their careers is to be ready to improvise. Be ready to follow up on opportunities as they unfold.