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5 Americans Who Deserve a Holiday More Than Columbus

5 Americans Who Deserve a Holiday More Than Columbus
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Christopher Columbus may have his own federal holiday, but itís barely a secret at this point that he was actually a hateful jerk. Learning about the manís real history sure puts a damper on any festivities you may want to have every second Monday of October.

Surely, there are countless people more deserving of a national holiday in America than Columbus. Here are five famous Ė and much more respectable Ė figures that we could be proud to swap in for Christopher and commemorate annually instead:

1. Albert Einstein

One of the great scientific minds to ever live deserves proper recognition. A holiday for the man would not only commemorate Einstein himself, but the process of intellectual inquiry and discovery.

Granted, Einstein is German born, but he became an American citizen in 1940, exemplifying the immigrant experience on which this country was founded. Although much better known for his scientific contributions, his civil rights activism makes him an admirable person in other respects, as well.

2. Eleanor Roosevelt

If thereís a holiday to honor the Presidents of the United States, it only seems fair to give a nod to one of the hardest working First Ladies, as well. Roosevelt refused to be a standard shrinking violet while in the White House, openly advocating for the rights of women, African Americans and Asian Americans at a time such talk was scandalous. She wasnít afraid to disagree with her husband on a few issues, either.

Even after her husband died, Roosevelt stayed committed to public service by advocating for and subsequently representing the United Nations with the goal of improving human rights worldwide. She is a true example of someone who used her influence for good.

3. Cesar Chavez

Arguably the countryís most influential labor activist, Chavez fought tirelessly — yet non-violently — to establish the union that would go on to become the United Farm Workers. His work not only validated the value of organized labor in this country, but also empowered the nationís Latino community to stand up for their rights.

Texas, California and Colorado already each have state holidays to commemorate Chavezís life, but his contributions are worthy of federal recognition. Particularly in an age where labor forces are unjustly vilified, his legacy is critical for Americans to remember.

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Top photo: stevebkennedy, Chavez photo by Joel Levine, others available through national archives' public domain

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188 comments

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4:46PM PDT on Oct 21, 2014

These are fine suggestions, with my heart leaning toward Mark Twain.

Other nominations to occupy the Columbus spot might include:
Skennenrahawi, aka The Great Peacemaker
Chief Joseph
Harriet Tubman
Susan B. Anthony
Sequoyah
Benjamin Franklin
Howard Zinn
Harvey Milk
Paul Robeson
Helen Keller
Nikola Tesla
Studs Terkel
Chief Tecumseh
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Sojourner Truth
Frederick Douglass
Eugene Debs
Woody Guthrie
W.E.B. DuBois
Jane Addams
Lucretia Mott
Malcolm X
Jesse Owens
Johnny Appleseed

As I read through the comments I found many of my admittedly haphazard list had already been mentioned.

I like Roxane C.'s suggestion of changing Columbus Day to DISCOVER AMERICA DAY.

8:11AM PDT on Oct 16, 2014

All great people who made a difference in the US.

6:13AM PDT on Oct 16, 2014

I have long pushed for a Great Americans Day to replace several holidays. Makes a great school lesson, lots of opportunity for TV to educate on that day, and opens the door to lots of discussion as to who should be included.

I suppose given how much better they are than Columbus, almost any American could be on the list (none, I believe, were responsible for as much wanton terror and torture as Columbus). He also wasn't an American. Of the singular recommendations, none, in my view, deserve such a singular holiday.

Of course, you could create a publication list celebrating each person on their birthday or on a date of newsworthy note in their life. No holiday is needed -- just recognition on a calendar or by news shows or by Congressional decree. We would learn more and, with 365 days on the calendar, there's always something to be learned and appreciated.

Holidays -- derived from "holy days" -- should be for reflection. If it's just for shopping or BBQs, that's OK from a celebration point of view, and we certainly deserve more days off, but we should keep clear on our purpose.

7:41AM PDT on Sep 20, 2014

Washington's birthday is a national holiday. In some states, Lincoln's birthday has been a holiday. We now have President's Day to combine the two and any others individual areas find worthy. March, April, June, and August have no holidays whatsoever. We don't need to look far to find amazing people who've done much to better the country and/or make our lives better.
Once I understood that Columbus did not, in truth, "discover" America, I wondered why we made a holiday of his birthday. I think I was in high school at the time. It's nice to have a holiday in October. I just wish it were for a more laudable personage.
Given that everybody loves a paid day off from work (or school), why can the personage we celebrate be one who contributed good things and made the world a better place to live?

12:02PM PDT on Sep 19, 2014

thanks

12:51PM PDT on Sep 12, 2014

noted

7:28PM PDT on Sep 9, 2014

All are unique people with special skills and experiences....I would like the next to be Ms. Parks.....

11:36PM PST on Feb 4, 2014

Such great idea's. And thanks for the postings.

5:09PM PST on Jan 4, 2014

Columbus Day is controversial here where I live in Pueblo, Colorado. There is a statue of him in front of our main library building at which the local Sons of Italy group hold a celebration each year while laying a wreath on the statue. And each year there are Native American groups which show up to protest the honoring of Columbus who they view as a criminal and a fraud.

Of course, there are many individuals in American history who are more deserving to be honored with a holiday than Columbus. Unfortunately, if we gave such an honor to everyone who deserved it, we would quickly run out of days and every day would be a holiday. Although, since Columbus Day is only a real holiday for banks and government offices, if we had more such holidays there would be fewer days when Congress was busy screwing up the country.

2:15PM PST on Nov 25, 2013

My turn? Will Rogers.

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