Lady Liberty……

Lady Liberty……

Photo credit: @franceintheus

As we struggle with the arrival of many Afghanistan refugees, let us not forget compassion.  On the occasion of “Bastille Day,” France’s National Holiday on July 14th, the Ambassador of France to the United States Philippe Étienne presided over the inauguration ceremony for Washington D.C.’s own Statue of Liberty in the presence of The Secretary of State of the United States of America, The Honorable Antony Blinken & The Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of the French Republic His Excellency Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Inside the original statue that resides on Ellis Island in New York Harbor, a plaque is engraved with words from “The New Colossus,” a 1883 poem by Emma Lazarus:

“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-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“The first Lady Liberty was not given by the French government to the American government,” said Ambassador Etienne, “but by the French people to the American people.  Her little sister arrived in the U.S. as the result of a joint effort led by historians, artists, and engineers; civil society, cultural institutions and companies from both countries.  I am truly honored to receive this symbol of the friendship between the French and American people, this Liberty that enlightens the world – a core value for our nations that it is more important than ever to defend. And now, the statue will stand here in DC, as a great symbol, one of these innumerable traces of France in the United States.” 

“In many ways, we’ve been mirrors of one another, holding up not only our greatest achievements, but also our greatest flaws,” said Tony Blinken.  “The same is true for Liberty, for as long as she stood, she’s forced us to reconcile with the gap between our ideals and our reality, between who we are and who we strive to be, including the struggle for equality. That’s the journey of America. That’s the journey of France. – not the perfect embodiment of principle self-government but the perpetual effort to fix our flaws. And well, we like to say in the United States, to form a more perfect union in this journey. The United States has no greater ally than France. It’s impossible to imagine the success of revolutions and the emergence of our democracies without the people of our nations believing and being willing to give their lives for similar ideas from revolutionary war to world war II, from the fight against slavery, for fight against fascism.” (This speech has been edited for brevity purposes)

The ceremony ended with the national anthems.  We cheated this year because of heavy rain, so here is a previous Bastille Day version: