The Joys of Celebrating Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day (Traditional)

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Those of you old enough to remember, remember this: Columbus Day is celebrated every year on October 12th. It’s not the second Monday of October, but a specific date. We’re not the only country to celebrate Columbus Day, although the exact date of celebration may be different. The specific date varies for the same reason the specific date of George Washington’s birthday varies. Based on the Julian Calendar, widely in use in 1492, Columbus and his crew finally sighted the sandy shores of San Salvador on the morning of October 12th, five days after they observed flocks of birds, indicating they were near land.

A century after Columbus discovered America, Pope Gregory XIII decided he had had Continue Reading “The Joys of Celebrating Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day (Traditional)”

Leadership Lessons of George Washington

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What can one say about George Washington that hasn’t already been said? Sometimes people think we paint the Father of Our Country in larger than life colors. In fact, George Washington was larger than life, and that’s a truth that needs to be continually emphasized. Not only was he tall in stature and well-built compared to his peers, but his stoic disposition commanded respect. It is that disposition, and the wisdom of his character, that makes our first president such a model citizen – one that we should neither be afraid to pattern ourselves after nor be afraid to expect our fellow citizens to pattern themselves after. If this expectation sounds a bit “larger than life,” then you understand the true impact of George Washington upon our nation. [Editor’s Note: Some of the quotes contained herein feature misspellings, improper grammar, and usage conventions different from what we experience today. We present them in their original form to lend flavor to their authenticity.]

George Washington was born February 22, 1732 on his parents Pope’s Creek Estate (near what is today Colonial Beach, Virginia). Well, I cannot tell a lie. He was actually born on February 11, 1731. At the time England was using the Julian calendar and Annuciation (a.k.a. “Lady Day”) Style where the new year began on March 25th. England finally joined the rest of Christendom in 1752 and began using the Gregorian calendar (with January 1st now designated as the start of the new year). Thus, the old “February 11, 1731” now becomes “February 22, 1732” and that’s the day we once designated as a holiday to celebrate George Washington’s birthday.

“Washington’s Birthday” became a national holiday in 1879 through an Act of Congress. In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act shifted it to the third Monday of February, meaning Continue Reading “Leadership Lessons of George Washington”

What The University of Chicago Can Teach Yale

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nathan_hale_statue_flanked_by_two_soldiers_yale_university_1917They took all incoming freshman on a special tour within a day of our arrival at the campus in New Haven. Those were ancient times, when many (like me) had neither the time nor the treasure to visit colleges prior to matriculation (let alone application). To this day, one fact from that introductory outing stands out in my much more crowded brain – the visit inside and around Connecticut Hall. Completed in 1757, this last remaining survivor of Yale’s “Old Brick Row” served as a dormitory for nearly two centuries. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

But that’s not what I remember.

Here’s what I remember: First, there was some obscure graffiti left on an interior wall. Supposedly more than a century old, I don’t remember what it said. All I remember feeling upon hearing this story is that college students have always been rascals and Yale apparently didn’t mind – and even glorified – these youthful misdemeanors.

The second memory carried far greater weight. Outside of Connecticut Hall stands a Continue Reading “What The University of Chicago Can Teach Yale”

The Heart of America Rests Peacefully Within the Heart of Greater Western New York

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(The following is an excerpt from the chapter “We’re Baaack”
in my 2012 book 50 Hidden Gems of Greater Western New York.)

The muddy road seemed to hardly merit the official route number New York State had assigned it. A “repaving” project had caused the traffic jam, and presumably most of the IMG_9916_daniel_shaysmud. The rain had stopped when we begin to climb the small slope that would lead us to Union Cemetery. Union Cemetery is closed to new burials now, but the grave I’m looking for is from 1825.

We pull into the gravel road that circles through the interior of the cemetery. I’m not sure where the grave is. My research indicates there’s a marker. I’m thinking it marks the actual grave. I see a marker by the roadside at the edge of the cemetery. Turning into the graveyard, I assume that’s where the grave is, but as I drive up the moist lane, I notice yet another sign – Continue Reading “The Heart of America Rests Peacefully Within the Heart of Greater Western New York”

I’ll Have One for the Road and Two for the Sea

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And let me the canakin clink, clink,
And let me the canakin clink.
A soldier’s a man;
A life’s but a span;
Why, then, let a soldier drink.
– Othello

The reason James Fenimore Cooper strode into Hustler’s Tavern has disappeared into the hazy mists of history. By 1821, his life had been less than pristine. Kicked out of
IMG_3230_violin_cocktail_300
Yale after three years as a trouble-maker (he blew up a classmate’s door), the son of a (probably embarrassed) Congressman who founded the City of Cooperstown did what any other lost teenager trying to find himself did in the early eighteenth century – he joined the Merchant Marine.1

Perhaps he remembered his earlier, albeit brief, stay in the Niagara Frontier just before the War of 1812.2 Serving mostly overseas, he saw some of his best crewmates taken from their ships and forced to serve aboard British warships against Napoleonic France. Like the rest of America, he detested Continue Reading “I’ll Have One for the Road and Two for the Sea”