Emma Lazarus. It’s not a name you probably know. But, you know her words. You’ve heard them before, even if you’ve decided to forget them…
Emma Lazarus was a poet in the mid 1800s, born in New York City. Her first book of poetry caught the attention of Ralph Waldo Emerson and she went on to become one of the first successful and highly visible Jewish American poets and authors, often advocating for Jewish refugees.
However, that’s probably not why you know her. The history of poetry isn’t generally common knowledge. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t know her work. She’s actually kinda famous.
Her lyrical language is (hopefully) forever immortalized on none other than the Statue of Liberty, that great tall woman (that’s right a woman) who stands above the seas, walking forward with the torch of freedom shining bright. Lady liberty stands for America’s ideals. I think we can all agree on that.
Can you guess what it says at her base?
It’s a poem by Emma Lazarus.
“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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
-The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus
Yes, America, some of you may have forgotten or chosen to ignore it, but Emma Lazarus’ words represent us, a nation not made of the people who live here now, but of the huddled masses who came here before us. We are a nation built on accepting and sheltering immigrants of all races and creeds, all religions. Those immigrants created America, not us.
Now, lady liberty soars above our shore, watching us destroy everything she literally stands for. She looks down on us, unable to stop what is happening. Most of us know how she feels. She’s been left wondering how it is that we so quickly abandoned our ideal of protection of the innocent for the illusion of safety. How quickly we’ve closed the doors and shut out what makes us truly great in favor of what is easy. How we’ve let fear and propaganda change our country from a leader of right to a follower of wrong.
I don’t often quote the bible. But doesn’t it say “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? I hope we never see a day where we are fleeing or in need of help and all other countries close their doors to us. If that happens, we will deserve it because we’ve turned our back on lady liberty and there is no turning back from that.