Monday, October 14, we will celebrate Columbus Day. While we sometimes take this small holiday for granted, it might be a good time to take a closer look at the man credited for discovering this expanse of land we call America.
To begin with, most people in Columbus’ day believed the earth was flat. Sailing to the west, rather than east, as was popularly thought, would surely end in peril, as ships would fall off the earth into the void. Any thought to the contrary could lead to ridicule, and at worst, imprisonment.
Columbus, being a forward-thinking individual of his day, was convinced that the world was indeed spherical, and sailing around the world would be a better route for trade to Asia and the acquisition of gold, spices and other valuable commodities.
After Columbus finally convinced Queen Isabella of Spain to finance the journey, she sent him off on Aug. 3, 1492, in three ships: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.
The trip was not an easy one. The crew was exhausted after being at sea for two months, and many crew members were becoming sick. They thought Columbus might be wrong. They wanted him to turn back after finding no land, but Columbus was certain they were almost to their destination.
Finally, on the night of Oct. 22, land was spotted on the horizon. The ships landed the next morning on what we now call Cuba.
Although their landing spot was far from the Orient, Columbus’ discovery made history, not only by proving that the world was indeed round, but by the discovery of the continents that would eventually be called the Americas.
Columbus never received the fame and fortune he sought, however. It was 300 years before celebrations began emerging in his honor. In 1792, the first celebration took place in New York, and 100 years later, President Benjamin Harrison officially recognized the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ journey. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Oct. 12 as “Columbus Day,” and the federal government declared the second Monday in October as a national holiday in 1971.
The story of Columbus is only one of the many fascinating and inspiring tales of the men and women who endured hardships, loss, ridicule and persecution, standing up for their beliefs while forging a path for the rest of us to follow.
Let us all remember the spirit of exploration and adventure that lives in all of us as we celebrate the man who discovered the continent.
Always feel free to contact me throughout the year with any comments, questions, or issues by calling my office at (573) 751-5713 or by visiting my website at www.senate.mo.gov/brown.
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