July 04, 2006
Mother of Exiles
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"
Famous lines, but do you know the rest of the poem that rests under the feet of one of the greatest symbols of freedom in the world?
The New Colossus
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 our teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
-Emma Lazarus, 1849-1887
Emma Lazarus originally wrote these lines for the Statue of Liberty for the Art Loan Fund Exhibition, a project by artists and writers to help raise money for the statue's pedestal. With a title that serves as a reference to the Colossus of Rhodes, considered one of the seven wonders of the world, this poem speaks more eloquently than I can on what makes this country great. I am moved by the calling of our beautiful Liberty the "Mother of Exiles". I don't think we often remember that this was one of our badges of honor, perhaps the highest of them all, that we were the haven for the people who had nowhere else to go. We were the land of dreams of freedom. We were the safe port in the storm.
Can we still say the same?