US Labor Secretary shares importance of Columbus Day and American heritage with students and faculty

Photo by Elizabeth Wagner

Danielle Huber

Staff Writer

U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia came to Franciscan University of Steubenville on Columbus Day to give a talk entitled “Columbus and American Heritage,” Monday in a full Finnegan Fieldhouse.

“It’s a school I’ve known of for a long time, always heard good things about, … among other things for the strength of its Catholic faith and I thought this school particulary might be interested in hearing about Columbus Day and its importance to Catholics,” said Scalia when asked why he specifically wanted to give his talk at Franciscan University.

Scalia tied the book of Proverbs to Columbus’s journey to the New World with a quote from Proverbs 16:9: “The human heart plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.”

He said that Columbus almost didn’t made it to the New World due to the mutiny of his crew and his poor geography. However, because of God’s guidance, Columbus’s mistake allowed him to find North America, a nation that became a beacon of freedom to all, Scalia said.

Scalia referenced the recent tearing down of Columbus’s statue in Baltimore followed by the protestors throwing it into the habor. One protestor claimed this was the “only way we can stop hatred,” Scalia said.

Scalia said that Columbus Day is intended to celebrate all American heritage, but especially Native American and Italian heritage, referencing the signing of Proclamation 335 by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892 that declared Columbus Day a national holiday.

Scalia also said it is important that in order to honor Native Americans, whether during Columbus Day or not, “one does not need to dishonor Italians and Catholics. (Although) aligned by progressives today, Columbus Day was an early celebration of … diversity and inclusion.”

When the Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR, university president, introduced the topic, he contrasted how modern popular thought attempts to erase the dark aspects of American history. This is much different than how Christians treat the passion of Christ, which he called “the darkest day of the history of humanity,” by placing crucifixes in churches to honor Jesus’ sacrifices and thus recalling this darker part of history, Pivonka said.

“I generally took Columbus Day as more trivial,” said senior David Hahn. “I definitely appreciate (Columbus Day) and Secretary Scalia much more, in particular, as a Catholic in one of the highest positions in America.”