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- The Word On -

Columbus Day

October 7, 2009
Traer Star-Clipper

By Sen.

Charles Grassley

Q: What is Columbus Day?

A: Columbus Day celebrates the accomplishments of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, who in 1492 traveled across the Atlantic looking for a shortcut to Asia and discovered America. After being turned down for financing by several European monarchs, Columbus was eventually able to convince King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to finance the exploration to find quicker routes for spice merchants to get to Asia. While Columbus never did find the shortcut to Asia he was looking for, Columbus discovered lands that no one in Europe at that time knew existed. According to , celebrations of Columbus's travels and discovery of America can be traced back to October 12, 1792, in New York City, which recognized the 300th anniversary of Columbus landing in the new world. One hundred years later, President Benjamin Harrison was supportive of people participating in the 400th anniversary celebration. During that event, the Pledge of Allegiance, written by Francis Bellamy, was delivered publicly for the first time. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the celebrations official by proclaiming October 12th as Columbus Day. In 1971, President Richard Nixon changed the holiday by declaring the second Monday of October as Columbus Day, which is how we currently celebrate it today.

Q: What does Columbus Day mean for us today?

A: The journey that Columbus and his sailors took in his three ships, the Nia, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, altered the course of history by launching a new era of contact between Europe and the Americas. Celebration of Columbus Day has become controversial in certain quarters because of the negative consequences the arrival of Europeans had on native populations, who had no resistance to European diseases. Still, in addition to his undeniable contribution to our history, Columbus remains a powerful symbol of some very American traits. Most Americans are descended from daring immigrants who were not afraid to leave the comforts of the life they knew to pursue the opportunity of a better life in a new land, despite many challenges and hardships. Columbus' spirit of adventure, courage and optimism have lived on throughout our nation's history as we continue the push to find and break through new frontiers. America has expanded west with the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Oregon Trail, traveled into space by placing a man on the moon and looked into galaxies other than our own through the Hubble telescope. Other new scientific discoveries happen every day. Columbus is a symbol of Americans always striving to expand our horizons and knowledge beyond what we know today. This pursuit should be commended and encouraged, because as Columbus showed himself, what is discovered during the search may be more important than what was being searched for in the first place.



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