Congress should consider replacing Columbus Day with a new holiday.
When Columbus Day was approved as a set federal holiday in 1968, the U.S. Congress was swayed by a few key arguments. The day was already being celebrated in 45 states. And Congress felt that a fixed federal holiday would honor immigrants.
A Senate report perfectly captured the intent through its proclamation of an “annual reaffirmation by the American people of their faith in the future, a declaration of willingness to face with confidence the imponderables of unknown tomorrow.”
Congressional conversations on immigration today are generally about the need to limit immigration or provide stricter enforcement. They don’t seem to invoke confidence about facing the “unknown tomorrow” or offer much hope for millions of immigrants waiting for America to “reaffirm their faith in the future.”
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If Columbus Day were proposed as a federal holiday today, members of Congress would possibly be dissuaded by arguments that Christopher Columbus has become as much a symbol of oppression as a figure of hope. Today, only 24 states recognize Columbus Day. Several cities – such as Seattle, where I reside – offer an alternative such as Indigenous Peoples Day, meant to honor and recognize the rich history of indigenous people.
To reaffirm our “faith in the future,” Congress should instead consider a national holiday that focuses on ideals that truly unite us. It should approve our first truly national holiday that each and every person would observe: a Day of Solidarity.
The Day of Solidarity could coincide with International Human Solidarity Day, which is commemorated on Dec. 20. We need a national holiday that binds us – instead of separating us. We should have a day that instills in us a “declaration of willingness to face with confidence the imponderables of unknown tomorrow.” A Day of Solidarity would be the perfect occasion.
Tonya Drake is the vice president for college relations and advancement at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood and is of Native American descent. She wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues.