March 28, 2020

It’s time to live up to the Statue of Liberty’s promise

I went with The Chimes last week to visit New York City for the College Media Convention, and while I learned a lot of at the convention about journalism and media in general, I also got to see some of the main sights of the city that I’ve always been longing to see.

I walked the Brooklyn Bridge at night, I saw the High Line and visited Chelsea Market. But my favorite sight, and the one that meant the most to me, was seeing the Statue of Liberty.

It’s hard to tell if my loss of breath on the Staten Island Ferry was from the sight of the statue or from the torrential, cold wind that struck me as soon as I stepped onto the observation deck. Despite the cold, I was determined to see the statue with a clear view—not through a dusty window.

Lady Liberty stands tall and holds her torch, tablet, and her promise. Photo by Robert Cumberlander.

Of course I’ve seen numerous pictures of the statue, but seeing it in person was really important to me, because I wanted to experience what my grandma saw so many years ago as a five-year-old girl immigrating to the United States from Italy.

And what a sight it was.

Based on the feelings of hope and pride that I felt at the sight of the statue, I can only imagine how it would look through the eyes of a child.

Although I was too far away to read the inscription, I know that the statue features the famous words: “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!”

These words are a call to all immigrants: “You are welcome here.” But that sentiment seems to fall flat in the current political climate.

Like those who she calls to, the Statue of Liberty was an immigrant, and she has become one of the most well-known symbols of the United States. If you walk into any souvenir shop in New York, you’ll see her face plastered on shot glasses and T-shirts galore.

But we are not living up to her words.

The Statue of Liberty looks over the harbor, a reminder of what kind of country we should be. Photo by Robert Cumberlander.

Building an unnecessary and environmentally harmful wall and refusing to grant asylum to families at the southern border is not living up to her words.

My grandmother and her family, like so many of those at the southern border, came to the United States seeking a better life. Lady Liberty is very clear about her message: we are a home for those who do not have one, we are asylum for those who need it.

It’s time we start living up to it.

  • Heather Barr is the current Editor-In-Chief of The Chimes and a senior at Capital University, studying Journalism and Professional Writing.

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