Columbus Changed the History of the World
Few people change the history of the world. Christopher Columbus was surely among those who did. I am dismayed to learn that your organization may dismiss his national holiday, Columbus Day. I serve as a Consular Correspondent for Italy in New Jersey and as Chair of the Curriculum Development Committee of the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission (NJIHC), one of whose missions is to combat negative stereotypes toward Italians.
A goal of the NJIHC is to educate all students in grades Kindergarten through 16 about the accomplishments and contributions of Italian heritage to the world. We have developed “The Universality of Italian Heritage” curriculum, in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Education. One of our lessons, The Venetian Spice Trade, focuses on the voyages of the navigator and the relevancy of studying the man and his times (njitalia.nj.gov.)
The current national stance of well-intentioned individuals to use presentism to disregard the extraordinary feats of iconic historical figures like Columbus, may set an unfortunate precedent. Let us be mindful that, The Admiral of the Open Seas first voyage, lasting five weeks on unchartered waters, was tumultuous. Sailing into the unknown, he confronted and inspired a mutinous crew. He discovered the course of the Trade Winds–knowledge which is still indispensable for mariners. He determined solar eclipses and successfully charted four round-trip passages, opening an age of European migration. His voyages advanced planetary exploration, mapping, circumnavigation, colonization and trade.
The Genovese’s encounter with the New World changed the course of history by forging a bridge between the Old World and the New. Although things were not initially perfect, ultimately a new peoplehood emerged and flourished over the centuries. Interestingly, he considered his greatest achievement to be the spreading of the Christian religion in the New World.
Columbus was the first immigrant in that new land. His landing on San Salvador was a momentous, world-changing event of enormous significance in western and world history, which authorities say is comparable only to landing a man on the moon. His extraordinary accomplishment continues to affect the lives of everyone on the planet. I respectfully suggest your organization continue to commemorate Columbus Day. In so doing, the connection between Italian cultural heritage and our American future is strengthened.
Most sincerely yours,