How do Americans view Columbus and George Washington today?

Published 9:54 am Friday, March 28, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Cleo Scott’s winning essay written for the essay contest sponsored locally by the Constantia Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

by Cleo Scott

We all have someone who we look up to and someone who we consider our hero. Many historical figures are considered heroes, including George Washington and Christopher Columbus. Both of these men played an important role in American history. Christopher Columbus discovered water routes, which led to the colonization of America and George Washington was our 1st president. Both men dealt with and overcame many challenges and adversities.

Christopher Columbus was born in Italy in 1451. He was an explorer and navigator. Columbus completed his formal education at an early age and began sailing on trading trips. In 1476, he traveled to Portugal and set up a mapmaking business with his brother. After the death of his wife, he tried to receive a grant to explore western trade routes. For many years, Christopher Columbus was turned down by Portuguese and Spanish kings. After the Moors, Muslims in Spain, were expelled from Spain, Ferdinand and Queen Isabella reconsidered his requests. He was finally allowed to explore the West. During his voyage, many of his crew members contracted diseases and died. Many also died from hunger and thirst. Christopher Columbus even had to leave 39 men behind when his ship, Santa Maria, sank. As I stated, Christopher Columbus faced many challenges, but he overcame them. Even though he wasn’t actually the first person to discover America, his voyages opened up the trade of goods and ideas between the two lands. This led to the colonization of America and he also influenced many other explorers.

George Washington was the first president of the United States of America. He was also the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He was the first person to take on the job of being the president so he probably faced many challenges. He faced four major problems as our first president: building a new government, handling the financial affairs of the new country, finding good relations with Great Britain and signing treaties with Indian tribes. During the war, he had to face forming an army and having a shortage of gunpowder. Many of his soldiers died because of the cold winter. Also, in the beginning his group of soldiers were no match against the other army. But, he obviously did a great job running the country because people greatly wanted him to run another term. He declined a third term because he devoutly wished for retirement. George Washington knew when to step down from power.

How does George Washington’s struggles relate to you? The author of “Facing Adversity: How Washington Overcame,” said, “As I pondered the gifts this legend brought to us on his magnificent journey, I could not help but reflect upon the life lessons inherent in George’s story. The need to release Ego, humility and asking for support; learning to trust oneself and others; intuitive listening and welcoming differing opinions as a source for creative inspiration, allowing others to express their highest talents, persistence and reinvention.”

Regardless of all the challenges, George Washington succeeded in being a great Commander-in-Chief and a great first president. Similarly, Christopher Columbus was a great explorer and navigator. He said, “No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service.” This means that he felt that no one should be scared to accomplish something.

There aren’t many similarities between George Washington and Christopher Columbus, other than the fact that they were both men that impacted American history. Like I stated earlier, Columbus was a great navigator and explorer, but he brought much disease to the New World and helped influence the destruction of civilizations. For example, when Columbus set up La Navida, which is on the north shore of present day Haiti, many native people were enslaved and ultimately killed. They were also ravaged by diseases brought on by the Europeans. There is a quote by Lamar Hankins, the author of “The Destruction of Haiti that Columbus Started,” that says, “But what is missing from that story is that, when he landed in the Bahamas Islands, Columbus and his men, greeted by peaceful and generous natives, set out on a ruthless quest for gold that led to enslavement, misery, and death for that population.”

I feel that this is how people should view Christopher Columbus today. He did, in fact, help to set the foundation so that people could colonize America, but he also caused the destruction of many people and their homes.

According to my research, George Washington’s actions were not as gruesome. He is known as the man who led American forces to victory in the War of Independence, and as the first President of the infant United States, who did more than anyone to ensure the success of America. However, they are a little similar because they both overcame the challenges that they faced.

Works cited: Rupert Cornwell, (January 17, 2009), George Washington: The father of the nation,

Lamar Hankins, (February 1, 2010), The destruction of Haiti that Columbus started,

Amanda Briney, A Biography of the Explorer of the Americas,

CLEO SCOTT is a junior at Franklin High School.