It’s the Columbus Day holiday weekend, and while most don’t give the holiday much thought, many simply acknowledge it’s a long weekend that helps transition from summer to fall, and sets up the holiday season for its run through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and into the Christmas/New Year extravaganza.
While the significance of Columbus Day may be somewhat misplaced, there is much history behind the day. Wikipedia explains Columbus Day as follows:
“Many countries in the New World and elsewhere celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas, which occurred on October 12, 1492, as an official holiday. Columbus Day first became an official state holiday in Colorado in 1906, and became a federal holiday in 1937, though people have celebrated Columbus’ voyage since the colonial period. In 1792, New York City and other US cities celebrated the 300th anniversary of his landing in the New World. President Benjamin Harrison called upon the people of the United States to celebrate Columbus Day on the 400th anniversary of the event. During the 400th anniversary in 1892, teachers, preachers, poets, and politicians used Columbus Day rituals to teach ideals of patriotism. These patriotic rituals were framed around themes such as support for war, citizenship boundaries, the importance of loyalty to the nation, and celebrating social progress.”
Aside from the ample history behind Columbus’ recognition, perhaps the greater significance is the spirit of Columbus Day.
Christopher Columbus, after all, was an explorer who saw things differently. He wasn’t afraid to challenge conventional wisdom, to use new science to prove his theory, and expand the European view of the world of the 15th century into a global vision. While others can debate the finer points of who first discovered the New World, natives, Vikings, or Columbus, the significance of his audacity should not be downplayed.
Leave it to a well-known dreamer, Carl Sagan, to encapsulate the successes of risk-taking dreamers.
Columbus, Fulton, and the Wright Brothers are all icons of history because they rose beyond conventional wisdom to prove what they knew in their hearts and their heads to be right. There is a difference between dreamers who have vision based in science and probability, and those who merely dream of the impossible or improbable.
Today’s dreamers who might be remembered in a century or two might include Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, or some other high-tech visionary whose influence will leave an indelible mark for centuries to come.
So while we may honor Columbus this weekend, perhaps the real celebration should be for all the visionary risk takers who were unafraid to sail into uncharted waters. Without their vision and courage, the world might be a much different one indeed.