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The Landing of Columbus, by John Vanderlyn (1775-1852) The Landing of Columbus, by John Vanderlyn (1775-1852)

Bringing a balanced perspective to the rancorous arguments that recur each Columbus Day, alumnus attorney Patrick Mason (’03) — a member of the Osage Nation and the youngest member of the Knights of Columbus national Board of Directors — has penned a thoughtful article for Real Clear Politics about the legacy of Christopher Columbus.

Patrick Mason (’03)Patrick Mason (’03)Although regularly maligned as a genocidal villain, Columbus was “the proto-immigrant,” says Mr. Mason, and his concern for human rights was “far better than most for his time.” Columbus has become, Mr. Mason argues, a convenient scapegoat for every wrong ever perpetuated against Native Americans, even though most occurred hundreds of years after his death. “By blaming Columbus for five centuries of history, we ignore the majority of that history and risk repeating it,” says Mr. Mason. “For any Native American, that should be truly terrifying.”

How should Americans regard Columbus and mark the day named in his honor? Says Mr. Mason:

Columbus Day is a day for us to remember that bold and courageous voyage in 1492 that led to the first sustained contact between two very different worlds. It is a day to remember the many good things that have come out of that contact, such as the founding of the United States, the first lasting democratic republic.

It is also a day to remember our failings as a country, such as the Trail of Tears and the forced removal and re-education of native children in the 20th century — episodes … [which] the explorer neither caused nor condoned.

Mr. Mason proposes more, however, than simply remembering:

While activists are quick to unfairly blame Columbus … I have yet to see a group of protestors from the city get their boots dirty while trying to make a difference for those in need on the reservations. I do, however, see the constant presence of committed groups, like the Knights of Columbus, providing quality coats for children in winter, boxes upon boxes of food every fall, and love and friendship every day.

This Columbus Day, instead of spreading a hateful and misleading history from the comfort of our easy-chairs, I would call on all Americans to follow the example of groups like the Knights of Columbus.

Donate your time, effort and money to the hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico, Florida and Houston. Reach out to the peripheries in your own neighborhood. Bring companionship to your lonely elderly neighbor. Form friendships with those who are suffering.

Good advice for Columbus Day and for always!