“The New Colossus,” written by American poet Emma Lazarus, is forever etched in bronze at the base of the Statue of Liberty. While the bronze Lady Liberty has symbolized many things over the years since placement at her permanent home on Ellis Island (then Bedloe’s Island) in 1886, today she represents the beacon of freedom for any and all who desire to take up the challenge.
“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
The words “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” remind us that the wealth and power of established old world nations are not America’s story. The nationalistic and patriarchal protectionism of the old world will not fit the developing philosophy of freedom in the new. Though this may not have been the expanded mindset of our founding fathers, it most certainly has become the mindset of today’s Americans.
The very design of the Statue of Liberty is symbolic of every struggle we’ve experienced in America. From the broken chain at her feet, to the torch she holds above her head, there is a hint toward the freedom and progress of all people. The creator, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, dressed her in flowing robes as a symbol of peace and softness, though her build is decidedly strong. Her gaze is like that of a protective mother, welcoming and lifting those who are seeking a better life. Rather than the masculine figure and stance of a guard protecting the nation, Lady Liberty stands as a light in the darkness welcoming all to the shores of opportunity.
It seems as though Bartholdi held a vision of the coming America, one which rose to the symbolism of Lady Liberty. The struggles of our young country include the violent clash of diversity out of necessity, for without the history of such divisiveness we would not experience the glory of overcoming. We are still in the midst of this struggle, but there is a rising up of feminine wisdom, a quickening of new birth. The birth of an age of balance between all people. This change will bring the true meaning of both the Statue of Liberty and the words of Emma Lazarus full circle.
Today, July 12 of 2016, we are on the verge of an election that may result in the first female President of the United States.
Our Olympic team looks like the face of America with its grand diversity. The Roman Goddess Libertas, our Lady Liberty’s model, shines brightly in my mind.
The ancestors on my father’s side have been in America for multiple generations, his great-grandmothers both of native descent. My mother’s grandparents came from Ireland and Scotland. My children, grandchildren, cousins, nephews and nieces make up a tapestry of culture including African-American, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Navajo, Filipino, Hawaiian, Romanian, Dutch, English, German, Irish, Scottish and who knows what else.
We are American Stew. The recipe for greatness begins with diversity, different ingredients that combine for a perfect whole. Let’s make America the beacon she was meant to be, let’s show the world what united means and how freedom works. We have begun to fit the Lady Liberty mold, let’s keep flowing into that form of greatness!