On this day in 1886, the last rivet was fitted on the Statue of Liberty, and President Grover Cleveland helped dedicate what has become one of America’s most iconic landmarks. For more than 130 years, “Lady Liberty” has stood tall in New York Harbor as a testimony to the unique nature of the freedoms we enjoy.
In addition to the deep symbolism conceived by the artist, the Statue of Liberty has stirred the imagination of men, women, and children from around the world. For some, she was the first recognizable confirmation that a dangerous journey across the ocean was complete. For others, she has been a beacon from home for those deployed around the world, beckoning their safe return. As a result, her torch has lit a fire deep in the heart of America that has been passed from generation to generation.
Unfortunately, the current condition of our political discourse runs counter to some of the lofty ideals of American liberty and self-government associated with the statue. Even with Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, some seem determined to foment division rather than seek the common ground required to move an agenda.
“Well I think it’s unfortunate the nastiness that pervades Washington now and political battles of personality that consume seemingly every minute of the media attention and an awful lot of time and energy here in this town.” – Ted Cruz
Over the last 131 years, the Statue of Liberty has been witness to some tremendous, and at times terrible, world events. The rise and fall of Nazi Germany, the Cold War, the September 11th attacks, and so many other stark moments in human history have occurred since that final rivet was placed. Through it all, the Statue of Liberty has continued to call out to “the better angels of our nature,” and to challenge each generation to remember the ideals that inspired her construction in the first place.
We desperately need an infusion of the sort of patriotic idealism that the statue has stirred in pervious generations. Short of that, it might be best if our elected officials in Washington would simply heed the words of Ted this week when he said:
It’s not exactly “Enlightening the World,” but if the men and women serving in government would just focus on doing the job we elected them to do, perhaps the long-term impact would be a restoration of the civility and statesmanship that we seem to have forgotten.