your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these the homeless, the tempest to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
By Emma Lazarus, from The New Colussus
These powerful words are inscribed on the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty rests. As our country begins yet another new chapter, these words are a refreshing reminder of the power and responsibility of being an American. They also serve as a reminder to give thanks, even in times of hardship and personal challenge, for the opportunities that truly only America can offer.
The Statue of Liberty holds a special place in my heart as I am sure it does for many Americans. My grandmother and grandfather immigrated here from Ireland. I grew up listening to my grandmother share stories about being aboard ship and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. My grandmother immigrated here because of the American Dream. Being the youngest of a potato farming family during the Great Potato Famine, she was some way a part of that “wretched refuse” and the journey here definitely made her tempest-tossed. She was by all means looking for opportunities.
These wise words penned by Emma Lazarus are indeed inscribed on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. While we all know that Lady Liberty was a gift from France, many do not know how the large pedestal on which the Statue rests was constructed.
Residents of Manhattan were asked to donate ten cents to help fund the construction of the pedestal. The pedestal would provide a base for the statue to rest and it would elevate it so it could be seen from great distances. The work would take months to complete and was very expensive. Nearly all residents were eager to donate to this worthwhile cause, but there were some who saw this endeavor as a waste of time and money.
One such man complained about the fundraising for the pedestal. Like an Ebenezer Scrooge, he refused to donate and found fault with everyone who gave money to the project or helped to organize fundraisers.
It is important to note that no one had seen the Statue of Liberty yet. It was in a warehouse in pieces. They had read about it and seen pictures, but it had not yet been assembled in the United States. Everyone was anxious to donate and see this amazing work of art and beacon of freedom assembled. It was quite difficult, however, for this stingy character to visualize the majesty of this ten story statue, and so he never donated to the fund for the pedestal, not one dime.
Some time after the construction of the pedestal and the assembling of the statue, the man’s grandson begged him to go and see the statue. He tried to refuse, but couldn’t. Upon arriving at Ellis Island, the man was in complete awe of Lady Liberty. He was literally speechless. The statue’s size and grandeur, as well as the sense of freedom it conveyed overwhelmed him. Eventually the man and his grandson ascended to the top of the observatory inside Lady Liberty’s crown. With a tear of shame running down his cheek, the man took a silver dollar from his pocket and jammed it into a small opening he discovered. He could not stand knowing that he was not part of something so wonderful. He was unable to visualize what could have been.
Do not be like this man in Arthur Miller’s wonderful story, Grandpa and the Statue. Answer the call to lead and make a difference in the lives of others. Our life is brief, but the contributions we make and the roles of leadership we choose are timeless.
Kelly is an inspirational speaker, author, and artist. Please visit our website to book Kelly for your next event. www.kellycroy.com firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-831-4825