Plan to curb 'huddled masses' turns spotlight on Statue of Liberty poem

entry picture

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.



◄ Water Chits: Denise Bennett, Indigo Dreams

'Incoming' by Jonathan Humble is Write Out Loud's Poem of the Week ►


Profile image

suki spangles

Fri 4th Aug 2017 14:48

CNN journalist. There's an oxymoron..

Profile image

Greg Freeman

Fri 4th Aug 2017 13:52

I agree that these are different times, MC.

Profile image

M.C. Newberry

Thu 3rd Aug 2017 16:28

The words had - and have - their power in context with
the theme of those fleeing from tyranny to freedom.
The reality is that the world is so different from the age
in which these lines were written and limitations were
always possible with the passing of time and successive
tides of humanity. Good intentions already own a
reputation as the paving stones of the road to hell...and
when America now experiences the effects of being
attacked from within - something to which she has
never been subjected since the days of war with the
British and her own civil war - she can be forgiven if
she looks at how she defends herself from the actions of
those who would claim to be heading to her shores for
the "right" reasons.
Previously, those would be from particular parts of the
globe...Russia and Europe with its anti-Jewish pogroms
are at the forefront in past history - but subject to
limitations imposed by the cost and other difficulties
involved in travelling the distance then. Now, ease
of travel and open border strategies, combined with
unending conflicts in the Middle-East, have resulted
in a different and dangerous predicament for those
responsible for keeping America safe and yet still
remaining a haven for the genuine refugee with something to offer - and not take or destroy.
Adaptability is nature's key to success. America
must adapt accordingly and we should understand
how and why that needs to be done.

If you wish to post a comment you must login.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message