yearning to breathe free


New Colossus, from the Statue of Liberty

I am speechless about one of the core principles of our nation so flippantly forgotten. The Statue of Liberty Monument is the New Colossus, and her name is Mother of Exiles. The full text of the poem stands as a reminder that so many of us who are “born and bred Americans” arrived here generations before. We took away from those who were here before us, and sought to marginalize those who came after us. Waves upon waves of people have entered our borders, and we have coped with difficulties and divisions before.

But each time, our country was enriched by diversity. Our citizens were made stronger by the neighbours, teachers, and coworkers who shared our space and our dreams. Throughout many generations the Mother of Exiles, our Lady Liberty, has stood as a symbol of our mercy and our might. And in her shadow, the borough of Manhattan teems with so many who have come to our country seeking a new life. The story repeats from East to West coast, and in small towns to vast cities.

By ignoring the mighty woman with the torch beckoning the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we snuff out the light that is our America. And the Mother of Exiles weeps.

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 your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus (November 2, 1883)

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