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The spirit of discovery

October 8, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

This is an election year, which means Columbus Day has become almost a forgotten holiday.

To many, it's a Monday off and nothing more. The bashing of Christopher Columbus as a man who ruined a pristine way of life that had been so fashionable for many years, has died down. Also missing is praise, if not for Columbus himself, then for the spirit of adventure and willingness to delve into the unknown that he continues to represent.

It's difficult to believe what a different world we would be living if Columbus had been willing to give up on his journey. He certainly had the opportunity - he was laughed at and ridiculed, but the persistent sailor from Genoa, Italy, continued to press, arranging financing through Portugal and then Spain.

He was willing to spend years assembling a crew and equipping his ships before embarking on his great adventure, which led to the West Indies. An entire hemisphere was opened to the world, just because Columbus was able to prove that it existed.

While arguments endure about exactly where Columbus landed and what legacy he created, there can be no dispute that Columbus represents the spirit of humankind and its desire to explore and gain knowledge, to test the boundaries of what is known.

That drive built the United States, when the Founding Fathers took a stand against Great Britain. It lived in the work of Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford and Orville and Wilbur Wright. It was seen in the lives of the late Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on the moon, and the late Steve Jobs. It lives through the work of people like Bill Gates and the workers at NASA who helped put the latest rover on Mars.

Sadly, it sometime appears that we are losing that spirit. We are more than willing to honor second- and third-place "winners" because we are afraid of hurting their feelings. It has become acceptable to some in our society to sit back and wait for others to help, rather than taking a stand and stepping up to make a difference.

Columbus embodies the spirit of being active, of being willing to get out of bed and take on the unknown challenges that face us each day, and because of that, it's appropriate that we set aside a day to remember him.

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