For many American University alumni, the National Mall in Washington, DC is something passed by on the daily commute to work. But for Aaron Killian, SPA/BA ‘05, it’s a chapter in an amazing storybook, one he gets to read from every day.
Aaron is founder and CEO of Historic America, a guiding company dedicated to telling the story of the United States. Every year, Historic America takes hundreds of tourists and Washingtonians alike on unique, multi-sensory walking tours around DC.
But this future as a guide and a small business owner was not always evident to Aaron, who attended American University’s School of Public Affairs as a political science student from 2001 to 2005. In fact, when he moved to Washington at 18 years old, he was convinced that he would make his career on the Hill. That led him to first intern and then work for a lobbying firm based out of northern Virginia.
“As it turns out, though, I didn’t enjoy seeing how the sausage got made,” he remarked.
Feeling uninspired, Aaron quit his job and began working in the service industry. However, he later realized that politics wasn’t the only thing that DC had in abundance. It has a lot of history too.
Aaron began to study American history and entered the tourism industry. After a few years working for other touring companies, he created his own. “Now that I have embarked on this career in public history, I realize that there truly is a way to monetize your passion. You just have to be creative and work hard at it, and the course will chart itself,” he says.
Something Uniquely American
Guiding with Historic America has been as fulfilling as it promised to be for Aaron. Not only does he get to share his passion for history with others every day, but he also gets to spread a message that he considers critically important.
“America started out as an idea, and the opportunity to get to explain how it came to be, and how it influences and informs our lives as Americans, is a real honor,” says Aaron. “The idea of America binds us all together, and especially in times when it feels like everything is pulling us apart, that’s a great thing.”
To current students and recent AU alumni, Aaron would encourage recognizing when to change course when something doesn’t feel right. He also espouses taking advantage of the opportunities that DC has to offer.
“Washington, DC is a very special place,” he said. “For anyone looking to start a career in politics, or to follow a life of history, it’s the perfect location. And, for me, American University was the right place to do it.”