Gerald R. Ford photo

Remarks at a Columbus Day Ceremony

October 11, 1976

Thank you very, very much, Bonnie, reverend clergy, Mr. Ambassador, Mr. Minister, Senator Domenici, Governor Lee, Mr. Mayor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Almost 500 years ago a bold Italian mariner dared to challenge the unknown. Each October we set aside a day to honor his memory. But Columbus Day, in our Bicentennial Year, reminds us that the courage of 1776 was preceded by the courage of 1492.

Much has changed in the five centuries since Columbus ventured into the Atlantic Ocean in command of three small ships, flying the flag of Spain. In an age of computers, laser beams, and space probes of Mars, it is hard for us to appreciate the awesome danger Columbus faced--a wide and treacherous ocean, fickle winds, unreliable equipment.

Columbus knew full well that his daring adventure could easily end in total disaster. Yet, in spite of the enormous risk, he went forward, not just once but four times. In doing so, he not only discovered a new world but blazed a nautical trail for generations of Europeans to follow.

Today, the thread of many cultures and many nations are woven into the American fabric, which reminds me of a story many times told to me by a Sunday schoolteacher in my early youth. He used to talk about the beauty of Joseph's coat--the many colors--the beauty of Joseph's coat and its many colors. I believe that the beauty and strength of America is its diversity, just like the beauty of Joseph's coat is its beauty.

I salute the Italian-American Bicentennial Commission and the Knights of Columbus of the metropolitan area for cosponsoring this wonderful occasion on this gorgeous day. Columbus Day is not just a celebration for Americans of Italian or Hispanic heritage, but a truly national tribute by all Americans.

Over the years, millions of immigrants have come to America from every corner of the globe. Many millions have been sons and daughters of Italy following the course of Columbus. Like Columbus, they crossed an ocean to pursue a dream. Like Columbus, they took great risks. Their greatest reward was the fine careers of their children and their grandchildren who have risen to the highest levels of achievement and 'respect in this great country.

Today, the problems we face in building a better world can be just as difficult as the ones Columbus overcame in finding a new one. The peoples of the Old World still look to the New World as the champion of freedom, the champion of human rights. America has been their hope and their help, and we will never let them down.

Our goal of peace with freedom requires every bit as much courage and faith and endurance and as much toil for Americans today as Columbus demanded of his wonderful crew.

We can build a better world. We can do it by working to preserve our neighborhoods and the influence of the family on American life. We can do it by ensuring a decent education and equal opportunity for every American. We can do it by working to give our children the very best legacy--continued peace with freedom throughout the world.

Today, we honor the bravery, the imagination, the initiative of Christopher Columbus by laying this wreath. We can honor him every day of the year by being just as brave, just as imaginative, and showing as much initiative in facing the challenges before us.

We seek not a new trade route or a new continent, but a new world of freedom, equality, and lasting peace among nations. Over the years, America has made great strides toward that goal. As Columbus, himself, might have thought, we have come too far to, turn back now. The course has been set. Our mission to achieve the American dream here at home, but also worldwide, will be achieved.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:42 p.m. at the Christopher Columbus Statue at Union Station. In his opening remarks, he referred to Bonnie Angelo, White House correspondent for Time magazine, Roberto Gaja, Italian Ambassador to the United States, Joaquin Cervino, Minister of the Spanish Embassy, Senator Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, Lt. Gov. Blair Lee of Maryland, and Mayor Walter E. Washington of the District of Columbia.

Gerald R. Ford, Remarks at a Columbus Day Ceremony Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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