Statue of Liberty: A perfect symbol for America

Statue of Liberty: A perfect symbol for America
It's been 35 years since we last visited the Statue of Liberty.

It was part of our program to expose our girls to the history of our country.We had taken them on the last train to the Pacific Northwest before Amtrak when railroad personnel brought their wives, and, they took souvenirs like dishes and menus of their last run.

Then, we took them east to Washington, D.C. and, to see the workings of the federal government. We witnessed Congress in action, toured the Smithsonian Institution and saw our honored dead in Arlington Cemetery.

To please daughter Jan – then an Abraham Lincoln buff – we saw the Lincoln Memorial at night, attended Ford's Theater to see where John Wilkes Booth shot the President and visited the house where he died.

I also had given them a tour of Gettysburg, the Civil War battlefield where Lincoln had delivered his famous "Four Score" address.

I practically wore out their feet because I had so much to show them. That included the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the Washington obelisk, too. I should have taken them to the Pentagon where I was sent to finish my book on the 25th Infantry Division after World War II – but they said "Enough is enough!" and so my lecturing was cut off.

But back to New York and the Statue of Liberty.

As part of our historic tour, we boarded a boat and went out into the waters of the Hudson River to Bedloe's 12-acre island which sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi had picked for his great masterpiece.

To fill you in on the details of the statue's founding, here are a few facts about its origin. I didn't know this stuff when we took the girls there, so they were spared my usual diatribe, except a reciting of the line from Emma Lazarus's poem: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free … "

It seems at a dinner party, Edouard Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye, the party's host, suggested that France present a monument to the United States in honor of America's support of that nation's aims.

Also at the affair was artist Bartholdi who was commissioned to do the work which was finally finished in 1884. It was then presented to the U.S. minister to France, Levi Parsons Morton.

It arrived in this country dismantled in 214 packing cases. The U.S. provided the pedestal; and Joseph Pulitzer – he of the lofty prizes – raised $100,000 to partially pay for it.

The French-produced monument, as it stands today, weighs 225 tons, is 151 feet, one inch high and has a mouth three feet wide. (See! I'll give you all the facts.)

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated by Pres. Grover Cleveland in 1886 – which means this is an anniversary of 121 years since the last rivet was driven.

It's a perfect symbol for America. That's what I should have told the kids when we visited there a long, long time ago.

© 2007 Robert F. Karolevitz

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