On February 27, 1974, my family came from Ireland on the last leg of our year-long immigration journey from the Soviet Union. We flew into New York’s John F. Kennedy airport. I remember seeing a lit-up, tall statue out in the middle of the water. I remember not knowing what that statue was for a long time.
Only later, much later, did I learn about the Statue of Liberty and the famous words etched on her base. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
Such important words and with such relevance to me as an immigrant. But, I didn’t know any of that at the time. I knew that I was tired, exhausted, but still excited to begin something new. I was only seven, but I knew things were about to be different than anything I had known before.
It’s funny. I haven’t thought of that moment, more than 40 years ago, in decades. I only put that memory of seeing the Statue of Liberty together with this day just now. What an opportunity to come to this land, What a gift to grow up here.
This land is founded on some incredible principles. It is my fervent wish that we as a nation adhere to the notion of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And what’s more, it is my wish that we grant those rights to all who seek them.
I understand, for some, today is bittersweet. Many suffered, many died to forge this nation. And as long as there are sides, when one side wins, the other side, by necessity, must lose. We cannot undo the errors and wrongs of the past. But we can seek to make amends, to join together, and to strive to be better.
We, as a people, can embody these principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And we can incorporate principles of generosity, kindness, and compassion as we go forward together. I hope we do.
Happy Independence Day.