Columbus Day is a day to celebrate the discovery of the New World and the series of events that led to the birth of our great nation.
While Christopher Columbus has become a controversial figure over the years, I still believe it is important to honor this day in recognition of our country’s history and the spirit of discovery that defines American culture.
From Columbus’s first landing in the Bahamas, to our forefathers establishing the colonies, to scientists making discoveries in the modern day, we are a nation built on the successes of brave people who were not afraid to take risks and do what had never been done before them.
Our nation is known for its innovation, ingenuity and our diverse roots. And on Columbus Day, I think we should celebrate all of our “Columbuses” — the many people who are pioneers in their own right.
Take Igor Sikorsky, for example. A local thinker, leader and creator, Sikorsky was an immigrant who came to the United States from Russia to continue pursuing his aviation dreams.
He did not have an easy journey, and began working as a school teacher and lecturer when his plans to work in aviation did not immediately work out. But he was determined and eventually founded his own aviation company to build things no one had ever built before.
Today we know him as the creator of the first viable and mass-produced helicopter, the engineer behind the innovative designs we still use today, and the mind that advanced aviation for a whole new generation.
Sikorsky is a local pioneer and explorer, whose discoveries shaped our state, our nation and our entire world. He has the spirit that Columbus Day honors and celebrates, and it is people like him that we should honor on this holiday.
Columbus Day is also a day to remember the diversity of our heritage, and the fact that we are a nation built by the strength and persistence of the American immigrant.
We all would not be here today, enjoying life as we know it, without the hard work, struggles and successes of those who traveled here before us to find a better life.
Whether it be Columbus, Sikorsky or our own parents, grandparents and ancestors; all these people play a role in shaping our nation and our identity.
So, as you enjoy a Monday off from work, or attend a local celebration honoring the founding of America, think about the importance of exploration and discovery. Think about the risks and challenges those before us have undertaken.
And celebrate the spirit that has propelled Americans forward since the very beginning, and the resolve that keeps discovery alive today.
Kevin Kelly represents the 21st Senatorial District, which includes all of Shelton as well as parts of Monroe, Seymour and Stratford. He can be reached at 800-842-1421, or Kevin.Kelly@cga.ct.gov.