In 2019, the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) inaugurated an annual lecture devoted to the commemoration of Columbus as part of a special initiative to promote the serious and honest study of history. In remembrance of Columbus Day 2020, AHI President Robert Paquette published an op-ed “Let’s Not Say Goodbye to Columbus” in RealClearPolitics (RCP), a popular online news site devoted to a “balanced, non-partisan analysis” of news and public policy.
In his commentary, Paquette not only decries the widespread destruction and defacing of statues that honor Columbus, but the laxity of sympathetic or cowardly political leaders who allow vandals to commit crimes without consequence. “To dismiss Columbus’s heroism and daring accomplishments,” Paquette argues, “is to revel in [historical] ignorance.” A proper commemoration of Columbus Day, he concludes, does “not ignore or absolve Columbus, the Spanish, or anyone else of their prejudices or their complicity in horrible acts.” But neither should such a commemoration ignore “the complexity of history in all its unsentimental and tragic unloveliness. On Columbus Day, we might reflect on how it is the extraordinary self-criticism brought about by the concept of personal freedom that germinated in Western culture—and Western culture alone—that has permitted modern critics to excoriate Columbus.”