Group pushes to nix controversial holiday for 'Exploration Day'

By Stephanie Grimes | Posted - Oct. 8, 2012 at 11:05 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Beyond the handy mnemonic device, many people have little working knowledge of the deeds of Christopher Columbus, the Italian-born sailor who for the good of the Spanish crown undertook a journey that would lead him to stumble upon the Americas.

As many enjoy a day off of work in honor of Columbus' endeavors, some are pushing to make nix the controversial holiday in favor of the more benign "Exploration Day."

Tom Diehl and others are petitioning Congress and the White House to rededicate the Columbus Day as Exploration Day to honor the many different types of explorers and innovators who have helped shape the U.S.

Part of the reason for the push is due to the controversy that arises when one considers the somewhat nefarious deeds of the Genoan sailor, who left behind a legacy in the Americas of genocide, disease and ethnic cleansing and set the stage for the slavery state that existed until the mid-19th century.

Nevertheless, Columbus discovered the Americas as far as Europeans concerned, and it is inarguable that the voyage of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria was integral to the founding of America as it exists today. But so were many other types of voyages, including that of Neil Armstrong, the first person to step foot on the moon — and that is the point Diehl and others are trying to make in their push to rededicate the holiday.

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"Rededicating Columbus Day as Exploration Day will allow those who wish to commemorate his accomplishments to continue doing so. But for those who find Columbus's role in history disquieting, it will enable them to celebrate the day in a very different way," Diehl wrote. "Exploration Day covers the depth and breadth of America's rich history of exploration, research and discovery. Thus, Exploration Day will be something that unites rather than divides."

Diehl and his team say the change would capture the essence of the American spirit — the drive to inspire the dreamers, reach further and build greater than what has been done in the past.

"Exploration Day is a day to celebrate where we've been, but more importantly, where we could go if we all put our minds and efforts together for a common goal," Diehl said. "It's both a celebration of our past as well as our future."

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Stephanie Grimes

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