• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Christopher Columbus: American Icon?

    Columbus Day is an unusual American holiday. It doesn’t commemorate a President or a great American statesman. Christopher Columbus found North America, but he didn’t find, or found, the United States.

    As Columbus Day rolled around this year, President Obama tried to subtly change the focus of the holiday. Rather than simply celebrate a daring explorer, he also wanted to spotlight the “indigenous peoples who had inhabited the Western hemisphere for millennia.” His presidential proclamation invited Americans to “reflect on the tragic burdens tribal communities bore in the years that followed [Columbus’s landing]…[and to] commemorate the many contributions they have made to the American experience, and let us continue to strengthen the ties that bind us today.”

    But this misses the significance of why America celebrates Columbus Day.

    Leon Kass, Amy Kass, and Diana Schuab provide a thorough overview of the history and tradition of Columbus Day in their curriculum, What So Proudly We Hail. Columbus was indeed an important figure for many immigrant communities. More than that, Christopher Columbus has long been an American icon.

    “The association between Columbus and America continued to prosper as the revolutionary colonists sought to distance themselves from England,” the curriculum observes. “In Columbus, they found a hero who had challenged the unknown sea, leaving the Old World for a new beginning on a virgin continent—much as they were attempting to do.” By the late 18th century, Americans saw Columbus as “a mythic founding figure.” In the 19th century, he was seen as an “archetype of the American ideal: bold, adventurous, innovative.”

    No one captures this better than Ronald Reagan. In a 1988 presidential proclamation, Reagan commemorates Columbus for his spirit: “He was a dreamer, a man of vision and courage, a man filled with hope for the future and with the determination to cast off for the unknown and sail into uncharted seas for the joy of finding whatever was there. Put it all together and you might say that Columbus was the inventor of the American dream.”

    Far from a day to remember our divisions or to dwell on past wrongs, Columbus Day is a day to celebrate an American dream that values diversity, yes, but also rewards daring risk-takers. Or as Reagan put it, “not only an intrepid searcher but the dreams and opportunities that brought so many here after him.”

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Christopher Columbus: American Icon?

    1. shannon says:

      You might not be saying that if you knew the stuff he got up to after colonizing the Carribeans (just a hint: When the Spanish Empire, which bragged about the wealth and power they got from conquered regions through mass slaughter and slavery, tells a man to come back because his actions make them look like barbarians you know he's no good). Maybe we shouldn't celebrate a man who considered feeding babies to war dogs great entertainment. Just a thought.

      • Stirling says:

        More Liberal "Anti-Colonialist" rehtoric.. I would hope at some point you are able to look past the propaganda of our liberal education system and belive in America.. Tearing down our countries Icons and traditions lead to only hate and not love for our country.

    2. Aishah Bowron says:

      Celebrating Christopher Columbus is equal to celebrating Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy. They were all evil, cold-blooded, calculating murderers !.

    3. Bobbie says:

      No man is perfect and at the time of Columbus, people only guess! I do find it highly contradicting that the federal government who doesn't allow the truth of history of this country to be taught, gets the day off in the name of Christopher Columbus.

    4. chall57 says:

      Enough already, this one of the biggest lies ever told. It's like almost saying that I walked up to Pluto, sat down, had dinner and then watched the football game. Oh! I almost forgot, I floated out of the heavens and started roller skating. It's an insult and everyone knows it.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×