2016-10-05 / Editorials

Columbus Day Represents Determination

In 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed October 12 a national holiday, but we have been celebrating Columbus Day in the United States since its 300th anniversary, in 1792. Five hundred years later, Columbus’ birthday is still being celebrated, with the minor adjustment of holding it on the second Monday of every October. The Columbus Day Parade is huge, and schoolchildren everywhere are still taught about how “Columbus discovered America.” The holiday periodically comes under fire for various reasons. Certain cities and states have replaced the holiday with Native American Day, or American Indian Heritage Day. Everyone knows the Americas were not only inhabited, but this hemisphere was a land of numerous civilizations, and so the word, “discovered,” is not really accurate, at least from the point of view of those whose ancestors had already been here for thousands of years.

In fact, Columbus still thought he had reached India at the time of his death. He had set out to find an alternate trade route to India, literally betting his and many others’ lives on it, not to mention the precious resources of Spain, only to find – for Europe – a previously unknown hemisphere. The educated classes at the time, Columbus among them, knew that the Earth was round, from the work of the brilliant mathematician, Pythagoras, since the 6th century BC. But the popular notion of the Earth being flat was hard to overcome, and there was no telling how far he would have to go across the ocean.

The massive undertaking was enough to alter the course of history forever. The Columbian Exchange, in which the two hemispheres of the Earth, each with some unique flora and fauna, became reacquainted, and each benefited and paid for the meeting in big ways, as we all know. Exchanging new foods, culture, technology and resources created a new economy, and also, unfortunately spread new diseases. But it also created a new civilization in the process. In spite of the drawbacks, life as we know it was fundamentally shaped by that one individual. And so we still celebrate the concept of always pursuing your dreams, even if it turns out differently than you expected.

How many scientists and doctors, or explorers, chefs and determined individuals in countless other spheres, have found something quite amazing while looking for something else? There is something to be gained from all efforts, even if not what was expected. Experimenting can be fortuitous, and with persistence, can come the greatest rewards for us all.

We may not always be right, but if we work hard, good circumstances can be maximized. Great things come to the person who makes a plan, follows it through no matter what, and even if they fail, immense reward may still come of it, even if it is only preparation for more certain success next time. This applies to all aspects of life, including business, and even politics.

The lesson is to pursue your dreams with determination. Always.

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