Plan to curb 'huddled masses' turns spotlight on Statue of Liberty poem
A row between a journalist and a White House adviser at a Washington press briefing – not much of a story there – has nevertheless turned the spotlight on the famous Statue of Liberty line, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses”, and the poem that it comes from.
"The Statue of Liberty says, 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free'," CNN's Jim Acosta told Stephen Miller at the briefing. "It doesn't say anything about speaking English."
A US immigration plan by President Donald Trump would restrict the number of permanent, legal migrants allowed in the US each year and prioritise those who can speak English or are highly skilled. Mr Trump's senior policy adviser at the White House, Mr Miller, said at a press briefing that the policy was "compassionate". Replying to Acosta's point about the famous poem, Miller said that it was "not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty".
‘The New Colossus’ is a sonnet written by American poet Emma Lazarus (1849–1887) in 1883 to raise money for the construction of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal. It reads:
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!’
This poem was written as a donation to an auction of art and literary works to raise money to build the pedestal of the statue. It played no role at the opening of the statue in 1886, but in 1901 Lazarus's friend Georgina Schuyler began a campaign to remember Lazarus and her poem. The original manuscript is held by the American Jewish Historical Society.