As our plane approached the Manhattan skyline from the south, I was able to catch a quick glimpse of Lady Liberty standing proudly in the harbor before the plane turned and flew directly over top of the infamous symbol for welcome, liberty, and freedom.
For our final tourist activity in New York City we took a boat tour of lower Manhattan down the Hudson River and East River. It was neat to have a different perspective of the city after excitedly wandering through the forest of buildings for three days.
I was overcome with emotion as the boat approached the Statue of Liberty. Quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting to be near tears as I looked up at her mild eyes and her out-stretched torch. I reflected on the history of the countless families who came to this country hoping for a new beginning as they fled oppression. After weeks at sea they were welcomed to their new home by the statue and the words carved into her granite pedestal:
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!”
~Emma Lazarus, 1883
During the 2016 election, these words were on my heart as presidential candidates called to cease the acceptance of refugees from war-torn areas of the world. And now, on January 28, 2017, it seems that these words have become empty and hollow. President Donald Trump no longer extends the “world-wide welcome” promised by Lady Liberty’s torch.
While Lady Liberty welcomed the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses with her silent lips, President Donald Trump is rejecting the exiles, the refugees, and the immigrants with his loud Twitter tirades.
If the United States of America – a nation founded by immigrants – cannot accept these people, who will? Where is the compassion? Where is the hope for new beginnings?