Do you know who Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi is?
How about Emma Lazarus?
Well, every American should know who they are. Perhaps a museum exhibit in Evans honoring the latter – but by extension, both – will help.
Bartholdi is the French sculptor who designed our Statue of Liberty, our most meaningful monument – and maybe the world’s. His ought to be a household name, particularly in the land of the statue’s shadow.
Likewise, we should know more about Emma Lazarus – the woman whose majestic prose of The New Colossus adorns the statue with the immortal words that have reverberated in American minds and hearts for generations now:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
In a gift from the French to commemorate America’s centennial, Emma Lazarus saw something more than even mankind’s greatest aspiration, which is liberty. She saw hope and opportunity, love and compassion. She felt the dreams of refugees, pioneers and impressarios. She peered into Lady Liberty’s heart and conjured the words of welcome she might speak.
The true immigrant’s story is the human story itself – a ceaseless, risky, often reckless quest for freedom. It cannot possibly be celebrated enough.
It’s about time we did more of it.
Thus, we are utterly thrilled by the exhibit Emma Lazarus: Voice of Liberty, Voice of Conscience, which comes to the Augusta Jewish Community Center in Evans Sunday until Jan. 21.
Not only is this a historic tribute to Ms. Lazarus – part of the commemoration of the Statue of Liberty’s 125th anniversary – but it’s a feather in the Evans center’s hat: It is one of only 18 sites chosen for the exhibit by the American Library Association Public Programs Office.
And, as Ms. Lazarus did with the statue itself, the Augusta Jewish Community Center is breathing life into the exhibit – with events exploring immigration and the poet’s life, as well as, this Sunday at 2, an awards ceremony for student poems inspired by Lazarus and local immigration stories written in honor of the exhibit here. The other special events are a panel discussion on immigration at 4 p.m. Jan. 15 and a discussion of the Esther Schor biography of Ms. Lazarus at 7 p.m. Jan. 17.
This exhibit may seem to be about a very important American poet, which it is. But it’s also about the nature of America and the eternal “yearning to breathe free.”
It is the human story.
(The exhibit is open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Fridays. For more information, call 706-228-3636 or go to augustajcc.org.)