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Columbus' spirit

| Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, 8:57 p.m.

Columbus Day should remind us of the importance of exploration and the curious, optimistic spirit that motivates great explorers — a spirit our nation must renew to reach even greater heights.

Christopher Columbus sought a trade route to the Far East in 1492 by daringly sailing west, not east, as was then customary. Landing instead in the New World of the Americas, he nevertheless found a trove of riches, many of them unknown to and undreamed of by Europeans, that ultimately would enrich civilization.

Realization of the Americas' potential did not come without mistakes that taught hard lessons. But if we allow past missteps to dissuade us from taking on new challenges, we cease to explore and settle for mediocrity.

Americans pioneered across a continental expanse and visited the moon. Yet today, we seem to be preoccupied with the mundane, short on optimism, leery of risk for the sake of the inherently uncertain rewards to be gained by exploring the still-abundant mysteries on Earth and in the heavens.

Instead of stranding ourselves in an Old World of our own making, we must find out what today's New Worlds hold — embracing, like Columbus, the possibilities beyond our familiar horizon.

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