Since our Nation’s founding, we have been driven by strength in the face of uncertainty and by a bold spirit of adventure. These defining forces were reflected in the early discovery of our continent when Leif Erikson — a son of Iceland and grandson of Norway — and his team became the first Europeans known to land on North American shores. On Leif Erikson Day, we honor him as an important piece of our shared past with the Norwegian people, and we celebrate the perilous yet rewarding voyage he and his crew undertook one millennium ago…. Today, we pay tribute to those who embarked on these expeditions and recognize the role they played in shaping our legacy as a Nation of immigrants.
Over half a millennium ago, Christopher Columbus — an ambitious navigator native to Genoa, Italy — set sail for new horizons…. Though his first of four voyages across the Atlantic did not end at his desired destination of Asia, Columbus’s adventure reflected the insatiable thirst for exploration that continues to drive us as a people…. Though these early travels expanded the realm of European exploration, to many they also marked a time that forever changed the world for the indigenous peoples of North America…. and as we pay tribute to the ways in which Columbus pursued ambitious goals — we also recognize the suffering inflicted upon Native Americans and we recommit to strengthening tribal sovereignty and maintaining our strong ties.