WASHINGTON President Reagan Saturday paid tribute to Christopher Columbus and to Italian Americans and Hispanics who he said won places “in the hearts of all Americans by challenging the unknown and defying the doubters.”

In a proclamation setting Oct. 14 as Columbus Day, Reagan avoiding the age-old dispute as to whether the Italian born explorer actually discovered America praised his “epic voyages of discovery” that led to development of the Western Hemisphere.

Many historians believe that Columbus, who sailed to India only to land in what later became known as the West Indies, was not the first to reach the shores of the “New World.” Scandinavians attribute the discovery of North America to the Vikings and Leif Ericson.

Since there are more Italian Hispanic Americans than descendants of Vikings, Reagan used Columbus Day to honor the navigator’s voyage of 493 years ago.

“Christopher Columbus won an imperishable place in history and in the hearts of all Americans by challenging the unknown and defying the doubters,” he said. In doing so, he set in motion a chain of events which transformed the world and led to the birth of the great country in which we live.”

“More than a great seaman he was a man of vision who could see the opportunities that lay beyond. . . Columbus exemplified an expand the frontiers of knowledge, a spirit undaunted hope . . . Like Columbus we Americans are ready to risk in pursuit of our goals. Boundless opportunities await those who dare to strive.

Regan said Columbus Day has meaning to Italian Americans. “This son of Genoa was the first of great Italian travelers to the New World. Millions of his countrymen would settle into he new land, adding their contribution to the developments stemmed from Columbus’ voyages.

“Columbus was the first link in a chain which today binds the United States to Italy in a special relationship.”

But, Reagan added, “Columbus’ achievement depended on the energy of a newly United Nation. This was the only the first of many cultural and economic contributions to the New World. We share with our Spanish speaking countrymen this heritage and our debt of gratitude to Spain.

Article extracted from this publication >>  October 11, 1985