- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

About 150 people gathered yesterday on Columbus Plaza at Union Station for a Columbus Day celebration that included speeches by foreign dignitaries, the Knights of Columbus color guard and music by the Marine Corps Band.

“We are here to commemorate the life and legacy of one of the most important explorers in history,” said Rear Adm. Louis V. Iasiello, chief of chaplains for the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. He also called on the crowd to follow Columbus’ example of perseverance.

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“He weathered many setbacks, but continued to pursue his dreams,” Adm. Iasiello also said.

The speeches and wreaths placed around the Columbus monument were to commemorate the 511th anniversary of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ voyage across the Atlantic in 1492. His arrival in the Caribbean islands is considered the discovery of the Americas. The explorer’s quest to find a western route to the Far East was sponsored by Spain.

This year’s celebration was not marred by protesters as it was last year, when about a dozen demonstrators disrupted the ceremony and smeared the Columbus statue with paint.

The U.S. Park Police increased security for this year’s event by stationing officers around the statue since Saturday and being more visible at yesterday’s ceremony.

“I put the K-9 out in front” of Union Station, said Lt. Phil Cholak, of the U.S. Park Police. “I think that was a little intimidating.”

Dr. David R. Curfman, the event’s master of ceremonies and president of the National Columbus Celebration Association, the event sponsor, said he was relieved that demonstrators did not spoil the celebration, though he respected the rights of all groups to protest.

“We are carrying on a tradition that has been here since 1912,” said Dr. Curfman, a physician. “We can talk about diversity. There was no one more interested in diversity … than Christopher Columbus. As an explorer he went to different places and met new people.”

The ceremony included the presentation of a proclamation by D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams recognizing Columbus Day and speeches by Gentry Davis, deputy regional director for the Italian Embassy; Jean Jose Buitrago, counselor of the Spanish Embassy; and Joshua Sears, ambassador of the Bahamas.

“The observance of this anniversary not only reminds us of where the Americas have come since 1492, but also of the path on which we are continuously traveling,” Mr. Sears said. “Above all, it also is a sober and compelling reminder of the courage, bravery, perseverance, faith, daring, adventure, vision and spirit required to chart and reach new frontiers.”

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