“A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name, Mother of Exiles.”
The Statue of Liberty faces outward toward the nations, holding aloft the torch of freedom, the flame of hope, the promise of the future. She holds this torch high in the daytime and during the night as well. She shines her light in the midst of darkness.
This symbol of freedom and hope was presented by the people of France to the people of the United States in 1886 in honor of the friendship between the two nations. Yet, the Statue belongs to all people. Her message is universal, speaking to the hearts of those who cherish freedom everywhere.
Liberty’s image is one of strength, majesty, and hope, visible in her eternally raised right arm which carries the torch of freedom. Holding aloft a light that never fails, she represents hope to the hopeless, welcome to the poor, courage to the meek. Facing outward toward the ocean, her lamp is a beacon on stormy seas, drawing to her shores, those from afar who seek a better life. For these, and for countless others who embrace her message, the Statue of Liberty represents the Golden Door.
What is the Golden Door?
It is the entrance into liberty and freedom from oppression that is the promise of America — a land, a people, a way of life.
It is also the freedom of spirit and of choice that was declared an inalienable right in the Declaration of Independence — a document whose date of execution, July 4th, 1776, is inscribed on the tablet she carries. The Statue welcomes all to this door — the lost, the needy, the rejected, the exiled. She invites them to step through it into freedom.
Liberty’s comforting presence is increasingly needed when the sea of world events becomes more stormy, the waves higher. In times of turbulence, her light is reassuring, her presence, a guarantor of safety.
This is the promise represented in the Statue – that through every conflict, war, or loss, through every dispossession or abandonment of principle, the torch of freedom will continue to be held high.
Immortalized in the poem of Emma Lazarus, the Statue speaks eternally the words of compassion: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” These words from the “The New Colossus,” written in 1883, appear on the Statue’s pedestal.
“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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The Statue of Liberty was originally called “Liberty Enlightening the World,” and this is truly her task — to enlighten mankind to the noble ideals of freedom and equality that belong to each one, and to hold high the standard of hope that light will always triumph over darkness. This is the promise represented in the Statue — that through every conflict, war, or loss, through every dispossession or abandonment of principle, the torch of freedom will continue to be held high.