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#261 The Huddled Masses: Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty

The words of the The New Colossus, written 135 years ago by Jewish writer Emma Lazarus in tribute to the Statue of Liberty, have never been more relevant -- or as hotly debated -- as they are today.

What do these words mean to you? "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore."

In this episode, Tom and Greg look at the backstory of these verses -- considered sacred by many -- and the woman who created them.

Emma Lazarus was an exceptional writer and a unique personality who embraced her Jewish heritage even while befriending some of the greatest writers of the 19th century. When the French decided to bestow the gift of Liberty Enlightening the World to the United States, many Americans were uninterested in donating money to its installation in New York Harbor. Lazarus was convinced to write a poem about the statue but she decided to infuse her own meaning into it. 

This icon of republican government -- and friendship between France and America -- would soon come to mean safe harbor and welcome to millions of new immigrants coming to America. But are Lazarus' words still relevant in the 21st century?

2018-04-20 01:07:51 UTC

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