Columbus Day celebrates a guy who sailed over here a couple four times, but then beat feet back home once he'd made life miserable for everyone he met here.
Instead of celebrating that, I think we should celebrate the people who came and stayed. You've heard of the Pilgrims of course, who came for religious freedom.
But have you heard about the Rhinelanders who came in the mid 18th century? They came in search of a better life. They paid a tax to leave their homes in present day Germany. They knew they'd probably never see their parents or family staying behind again.
They took barges up the Rhine River to Rotterdam, then piled everything they owned, including their kids on a wooden ship and set sail across the Atlantic to a place they'd never seen. Every scrap of food and drip of water had to be packed on the ship. They cooked that food over an open flame on a wooden boat.
But they came. By the hundreds, then thousands.
A hundred years later, other people set off in search of a better life, not by sail, but by covered wagon drawn most often by oxen.
Most of them walked. Walked from Missouri to Oregon. When they got to the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River, they winched the wagons down the steep slopes, using ropes around trees as braces.
A hundred years later you can still see the marks.
Their names are layered into our street names, our county names, our town names. Their immense courage and determination to build a new life is what we now call American can-do spirit.
And this doesn't begin to count the folks who didn't arrive here voluntarily. Who came in chains, but survived. Who endured hardship we can't begin to understand, but survived.
These are the people I hope we remember to honor today. They weren't here first, but when they came, they stayed. And built.