On this day in 1885 the 350 individual pieces of the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor.
Most people know at least some of the words associated with the Statue of Liberty. They’ve heard “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” Those words are from a poem called “The New Colossus” written by American poet Emma Lazarus in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, that poem was cast onto a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal’s lower level.
The words expressed the sentiment that America was a new type of nation, different from those closed, nationalistic countries of the Old World. “From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome”: We warmly invited “the masses” of far-away lands to come and partake in everything that our new nation had to offer: the promise of freedom; the promise of democracy; the promise of America.
Today, one hundred thirty-five years after “The New Colossus” was written, we are tearing immigrant children away from their families and locking them up in detention centers; deporting hungry, hardworking people coming to our shores to seek a better life; and banning visitors from countries that we fear.
Today, Americans should take a moment to read the words of the Statue of Liberty, our Mother of Exiles, and reflect on their meaning.
Today, we need to ask ourselves: who are we? And who do we want to be?
The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
November 2, 1883