Rosemead Kiwanis Club

   "Serving the Community Since 1945"

   

   FAX OF

      LIFE

 

 

The Fax of Life

A weekly inspiration, courtesy of the Kiwanis Club of Scott's Valley

July 8, 2013                                     Volume 19, Number 32

 

Lady Liberty

 

Notes G R Dixon, “She was a fabulous gift from the people of France to their American brothers and sisters.  She is the Statue of Liberty. 

 

“Raised on a pedestal built with tens of thousands of small contributions, she was for a time the tallest structure in the New World. 

 

“For over a century she welcomed newcomers of every creed and hue.  Not speaking English, they resolved that their children would learn the language of their new homeland.

 

“Today the flood of immigrants has largely shifted west, from New York Harbor to our border with Mexico.  But although she is no longer the first American thing beheld by the eyes of many, she still casts a long shadow across a freedom-hungering world.  Her light still pierces the darkness of despotism, welcoming those who whisper “Freedom” in a thousand languages. 

 

“A poem in her base, written by Emma Lazarus, still beams a time-honored invitation to lands around the globe.”

 

Most have at one time or another come in contact with the five famous last lines of this poem. Many, however, have never read the full text or noted its title or deliberate contrast to one of the seven ancient “wonders of the world,” the Colossus of Rhodes.

 

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!
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!"

 

According to the Liberty State Park website the statue was part of a very systematic processing center for incoming immigrant exiles from abroad.

 

“During the 19th and early 20th centuries the area that is now Liberty State Park was a major waterfront industrial area with an extensive freight and passenger transportation network. This network became the lifeline of New York City and the harbor area.

 

“The heart of this transportation network was the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal (CRRNJ), located in the northern portion of the park. The CRRNJ Terminal stands, with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, to unfold one of this nation's most dramatic stories: the immigration of northern, southern, and eastern Europeans into the United States.

 

“After being greeted by the Statue of Liberty and processed at Ellis Island, these immigrants purchased tickets and boarded trains, at the CRRNJ Terminal, that took them to their new homes throughout the United States. The Terminal served these immigrants as the gateway to the realization of their hopes and dreams of a new life in America. “

 

Those processed through this centralized immigration system were legal émigrés with commitment to the language and systems of their new homeland.  Some unfortunately faced discrimination and exploitation, but over time they rose above these obstacles and became part of the American “melting pot.”

 

But then the open immigration door shut as the industrial age reduced the need for an unlimited inflow of manpower.  This was followed by the tragedy of Black Tom Island (a deliberate act of German sabotage initially covered up by the American government and now forgotten in most history classes). Ellis Island was no longer the portal that it once was and the Statue’s arm was damaged in the explosion, closing it forever to the general public.

 

That was nearly 100 years ago, but still America remains the dream for the oppressed of the world.  A world war, the xenophobia of the twenties, a depression, another world war, a cold war and now a war with religious extremists has done nothing to diminish it. 

 

It is easy to take knee jerk positions pro or con regarding immigration policy in the 21st century. Such glandular responses do not diminish the message captured by Emma Lazarus.  America is an exceptional nation, uniquely based on ideals different than any other. Although imperfectly and selectively executed in many instances the good that remains is still a beacon in a world of despots envied by many. 

 

On this, as every Independence Day, we who are presently entrusted with this torch have much to consider. We should think not only of our own feelings and interests, but of how we will carry the torch’s flame and pass it on to those who will succeed us.

 

                                                                                               --- by an Anonymous American

 

Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world, one child and one community at a time. All of its Clubs are independently-run community service groups.