It’s one thing to see her on TV or from Manhattan or the Staten Island Ferry . . . Seeing Lady Liberty up close this weekend during our New York trip, even just from below, was nothing short of awe-inspiring and humbling.
While we were there, 3 students from Mexico, of all places, asked if they could interview me about this place for their school project. Not gonna lie. Given current circumstances, I felt a lot of pressure to let them and their classmates back in Mexico know that most Americans still believe in the spirit of welcoming that this monument stands for.
Let me preface by saying that moments before i was approached, we were re-explaining to Miss Girl that the Statue was a gift from France, who has long been America’s friend. We told her that it represented that friendship, as well as the idea that America extends that friendship to the world, welcoming all people from different countries to come be part of and flourish in this place that holds dear the ideals of equality and freedom. We explained that people from other places don’t always get to experience the same freedoms we do. And, without missing a beat, she said “oh, so places like Texas and Ohio?” and all in the same moment, i felt both shame and pride for her east coast liberal elite upbringing. Lawd.
So the meaning of the monument was fresh when the 3 students approached me. They had only 2 questions and I had a few seconds to prepare while they readied their iPhone shot. They wanted to know what did the Statue mean to me and how did it make me feel. Gaaahhh. Because there were all the feels at that point.
As an ordinary American, not military, not government, just someone who lives in this country and thinks it’s pretty much the greatest (despite the recent unpleasantness), I don’t often think that much about what to say to visitors about what we’re all about. I think patriotism has lately gotten bastardized by politics, and that at heart, loving this country means doing right by and for all who make it so great. And so, before my moment on camera in front of 3 girls from a country ours has recently demonized, i totally welled up and was SO glad I was still wearing my sunglasses. I didn’t take them off (and then questioned that decision, but also knew they’d left weird imprints on my cheeks that no one from any country needed to see).
And then somehow, I put together what i think was a couple somewhat cohesive statements about how the Statue of Liberty stood for the idea that America welcomes everyone from all over the world so that they can experience the freedom that we are lucky enough to have every day, and that that makes me feel proud — of both this monument and this nation. And then I admitted to these girls that i was welling up just trying to say that because it is so incredibly important. And in such a fully American way, they told me that was awesome.
And it was. Awesome. I hope their project turns out even better.