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Mounting support for renaming today 'Exploration Day'
Is it time for a new national holiday?
No, we're not suggesting we should add to the already generous number of days federal (and, often, state, county, city and bank) employees have off.
A look at the issues, however, can be used to make a compelling case for changing the name of Columbus Day.
A few years ago, we used this space to list the problems with honoring Christopher Columbus, such as the fact he was almost certainly not the first to "discover" the new continents, trailing Norse and even Asian explorers by centuries. Plus, there is the fact he introduced smallpox and other diseases to the new world, as well as venerial disease and tobacco to the old.
Then, there are the deaths of millions of Native Americans, from the first Columbus encountered in the Caribbean to the last who died in a virtual genocide with the influx of European settlers.
We didn't mention the political aspects of Columbus Day, officially recognized, many contend, by FDR in 1937 to attract the Italian vote.
The idea of renaming Columbus Day as "Exploration Day" is gaining traction this year, as an effort to honor people like the recently departed Neil Armstrong, a reluctant hero who nevertheless had "the right stuff" when the challenge of landing a primitive spaceship on the moon demanded it.
Tom Diehl, Karl Frank and Dr. Rod Wright of ExplorationDayUSA.org are promoting the idea:
"Neil Armstrong's triumph was not just in what he as an individual accomplished, but what we as a species have accomplished together. It makes you wonder what this world would be like today if we only had the same kind of attitude that put a human being on the moon in the first place," Frank said.
"Inspired by the likes of Armstrong's generation, we are finished wondering and are ready to make it happen by rekindling that fire of exploratory spirit intrinsic in all of humanity. Like the exploratory fire found in women like Sacajawea, Hedy Lamar, Amelia Earhart, and men like Lewis and Clark, John Fremont, Matthew Henson, Charles Lindbergh and the more contemporary Elon Musk," he said.
You can learn more at ExplorationDayUSA.org or sign a petition at change.org
While many "firsts" were accomplished long ago, the age of exploration is far from over.
For example, if weather allows on Tuesday, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner will try for the highest, fastest free fall in history.
Advising him is Joe Kittinger, who holds the record for his 1960 jump from a helium balloon at 19.5 miles in altitude, who reached 614 mph, just shy of breaking the sound barrier at that height.
If all goes according to plan, Baumgartner will exit the gondola at 23 miles high, breaking the record and sound barrier in the process.
Baumgartner already made practice jumps from 15 miles high in March and 18 miles high in July.
He's being sponsored by an energy drink, of course. Exploration has never been exclusively a government-funded endeavor.