Several phrases are associated with the Statue of Liberty, but the most recognizable is “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This quote comes from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, New Colossus, which she wrote for a fundraiser auction to raise money for the pedestal upon which the Statue of Liberty now sits. The poem was not recognized and was entirely forgotten after the auction.
In the early 1900s and after Lazarus’ death, one of her friends began a campaign to memorialize Lazarus and her New Colossus sonnet. The effort was successful, and a plaque with the poem’s text was mounted inside the statue's pedestal.
Also known as the Statue of Liberty poem, New Colossus and its famous last lines have become part of American history. Here is the sonnet in its entirety:
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!” cries she
With silent lips. “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 meaning of Emma Lazarus's poem "The New Colossus" lies in its powerful portrayal of the United States as a beacon of hope, freedom, and opportunity for those seeking a new life. The poem captures the essence of the Statue of Liberty as a welcoming symbol and reflects the American ideals that have shaped the nation's history and identity.
The poem begins by contrasting the Statue of Liberty with the ancient Colossus of Rhodes, a symbol of conquest and power. By referring to the statue as the "Mother of Exiles," Lazarus emphasizes the nurturing, caring aspect of the United States as a refuge for immigrants. The poem also acknowledges many immigrants' hardships and struggles, describing them as "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" and "the wretched refuse of your teeming shore." These phrases paint a vivid picture of people seeking solace and relief from the difficulties they have left behind.
The poem's famous lines, "Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," further underscore the welcoming nature of the Statue of Liberty and the United States. These words convey that the country is open to people from all walks of life, regardless of their social, economic, or cultural backgrounds.
Emma Lazarus's "The New Colossus" remains relevant today as the United States and the world continue to grapple with issues related to immigration, diversity, and cultural integration. The poem serves as a reminder of the core values that have shaped the nation's identity and its commitment to providing hope and opportunity for all.
When immigration policies and attitudes are often debated, the poem's message of compassion, unity, and acceptance is especially significant. "The New Colossus" encourages readers to consider the plight of those who leave their homelands for a better life and uphold the ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunity that have long defined the American Dream. Reflecting on the powerful words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, we are reminded of embracing diversity and striving to create a more inclusive and compassionate society.
The inscription on the tablet held by the Statue of Liberty carries a powerful message that reinforces the statue's role as a symbol of freedom and hope. The tablet, held in Lady Liberty's left hand, is shaped like a keystone, symbolizing the fundamental importance of the principles it represents.
The inscription on the tablet consists of the date "JULY IV MDCCLXXVI," written in Roman numerals, and signifies the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence is a cornerstone of American democracy, asserting the fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It marked the birth of the United States as an independent nation, breaking free from the rule of the British Crown.
Including this date on the tablet held by the Statue of Liberty emphasizes the values and ideals underpinning the United States' founding principles. It is a reminder of the nation's commitment to freedom, democracy, and equal rights for all. By inscribing the date of the Declaration of Independence date on the tablet, the statue's creators sought to highlight the importance of these principles and connect Lady Liberty directly to the nation's founding.
The tablet and the other symbolic elements of the Statue of Liberty reinforce the powerful message of hope, opportunity, and freedom that the monument represents. The date of the Declaration of Independence inscribed on the tablet is a testament to the enduring nature of the American dream and the nation's dedication to upholding the values of democracy and human rights.
Holding the tablet close to her body, the Statue of Liberty symbolically protects and cherishes the principles that have shaped the United States. The inscription on the tablet serves as a constant reminder of the nation's commitment to freedom and equality, inviting all who see the statue to reflect on the importance of these values in the ongoing pursuit of a more just and inclusive society.