The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek
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 imprisoned lightning,
and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand glows
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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)
This is an eloquent and beautiful portrayal of what was once the promise of America: a new land of equal opportunity. It is carved into the concrete pillar at the base of the Statue of Liberty. This statue was given to the United States by the French in celebration of their twinned revolutions for democracy. Both of these revolutions were heavily influenced by the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, especially the concept that a government could breach the social contract and thus be in need of replacement (John Locke expressed the same idea in his Two Treatises on Government). Now, as F. Scott Fitzgerald would attest, something of that bright, pioneering spirit has been lost.