For their first full day in New York City, the International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA) delegation toured the sights of the Big Apple. One in particular, Lady Liberty stood out.
She stands at the mouth of the Manhattan harbor welcoming the world’s weak and tired, those worn by the troubles of their old world, and promising a new life of opportunity and freedom. She embraces every person who comes to her shores, honoring the sacred value of each life.
The following poem that adorns the inner wall of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, particularly captures her promise.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land
Here at our sea-washed, sunset fates 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 wrote this poem as part of an effort to raise funds for the completion of the statue.
The Statue has been a symbol of the principles that the United States was built on and continues to work towards, an iconic representation of international friendship, cooperation, human dignity, hope, pride and compassion.
Although there are stains on the history of this young country, Lady Liberty continues to stand as a beacon of hope and promise.
The Statue of Liberty was a gift of friendship between France and the United States. She is an example and result of international and national cooperation. The statue herself was funded by the French people. However, there were insufficient funds to erect her pedestal. The symbol of America’s values and vision was at risk of being lost. Yet, many different Americans: artist, business and community leaders, middle and upper class, collectively took ownership to support the project.
Journalist and entrepreneur Joseph Pulitzer was one such person. In his publication, New York World, he ran the following appeal.
“We must raise the money! The World is the people's paper, and now it appeals to the people to come forward and raise the money. The $250,000 that the making of the Statue cost was paid in by the masses of the French people- by the working men, the tradesmen, the shop girls, the artisans- by all, irrespective of class or condition. Let us respond in like manner. Let us not wait for the millionaires to give us this money. It is not a gift from the millionaires of France to the millionaires of America, but a gift of the whole people of France to the whole people of America.”
The popular appeal raised $100,000 in six months, enough for the pedestal. Most donations were under $1, which equates to approximately 125,000 Americans funding the project.
The Statue of Liberty was erected in 1886, a result of ownership over common vision and values, and teamwork from every tier of society.
In 1986, she would again become the centerpiece of the American the spirit of shared responsibility. The fundraising effort for her restoration fund is the most successful private-public fundraising effort in American history.
Lady Liberty stands is a symbol of hope to many weary immigrants, and an icon of human dignity and compassion. No matter where you came from or what your story, she welcomes you with her warm light, guides you to her shores, and offers refuge. Lady Liberty embraces all walks of life, for she acknowledges that all life is sacred, as how God intended.
She is much more than just an amazing engineering feat. She stands as a symbol of liberty, justice, love, and the idea that all of humanity is one family under God. She reminds us all that we have a responsibility to one another to protect and ensure a brighter future for each generation that is to follow.