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100 Years Ago


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Liberty For All

In the months prior to 1874, the people of France began to raise money to pay for the building of a statue that would be their gift to the United States. In 1874, the French sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, designed and began to build a statue that would tower 151 feet, 1 inch into the American sky. At the same time, the American public was raising money to build a base in New York harbor that would raise the statue up to a height of over 300 feet from the bottom of the base to the tip of the torch.

She was unveiled to the world on October 18, 1886, and has become a world symbol of the United States and its democratic traditions. To immigrants aboard ships and planes, eyes scanning the horizon as they moved west, desperately wanting to glimpse the gracious lady with freedom’s torch held high in her right arm and a book inscribed, July 4, 1776, in her left arm, seeing the Statue of Liberty was the beginning of their new life in America.

The poem by the American writer, Emma Lazarus, inscribed on a tablet at the main entrance to the pedestal is well-known to many Americans. Her poem, and America’s invitation, reads:

The exuberance of safely reaching the New World, with their hopes, dreams and aspirations intact for a better life for themselves and their children, elicited emotional responses and the shedding of joyful tears that have soaked the decks of mankind’s ships from the smallest and humblest of sailing vessels to the finest, graceful, ocean-going liners. The immigrant, like war’s unknown soldier, is for the most part faceless, but the results of his and her determination and courage transcends anonymity and leaves us with a legacy of national pride in ourselves, our achievements, and our nation as it prepares to step boldly into the 21st century.

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'Immigration' segment written in November, 1997 by David Lodge

 

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