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.
I went on a class trip with my daughter's class to Ellis Island this week, and even though I only live a couple of hours away, it was my first trip there. I believe that most of my family came to America before the opening of Ellis Island in 1892, and my husband's family came through Canada, so I don't have a direct connection to this incredible gateway. And yet, I felt strongly connected and proud, simply by virtue of being an American.
When I saw the photos in the gallery, and read the stories, I was moved by the courage and determination of those who chose to come. To leave one's family and homeland, to cross the ocean knowing you may never return, to come with only the clothes on your back and no job prospects- that is courage and determination I don't think I'd have. I was taken aback by some of the stories- an 11 year old girl traveling alone from Japan to meet her family here, a family who borrowed an empty suitcase to bring so that it would not be obvious that they had absolutely no possessions.
Walking through the Great Hall where up to 5,000 immigrants were processed every day, I could almost hear their voices, in tongues from all over the globe, and I could feel their spirit. Perhaps this is why America is a land of such great innovation, of mavericks and risk takers. For our collective ancestory is a great one: a strong, brave, and determined human spirit. Immigrants still come here, seeking the freedom and opportunity that we mostly take for granted. For all of our problems and troubles, this is a place of hope. Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.....