I feel compelled by Margaret and Verity to speak; by Margaret, who died just before Obama was elected, who spent most of her adult life working for our democracy through the League of Women Voters. And by Verity, born on a ranch near Two Buttes, holding her own in a rough man's world after her mother died when Verity was 11, who learned to stand up for women's rights at an early age, kicking her brothers down when they tried to reach her in the cottonwood tree and protecting herself from more serious threats from rough ranch hands. She taught in America and Australia and after retirement went to Africa in the Peace Corps to teach little Namibian children. And I'm here for myself because there are some things I have wanted to say.
I want to speak out about some of our neighbors. Of all the issues that threaten to divide us, the issue of immigration concerns me most of all because it's closest to home. I don't know whether my immigrant neighbors are legal or not. Maybe they are mixed, some legal, some not. Whatever the case, I want them to be treated with compassion. I don't want someone coming in the night and carrying one of them off. Many of them have risked everything to be here among us. Who has a better chance to be a good citizen than someone who has risked all to be here? When there is a question I want their stories to be heard. Who cannot be haunted by the photo of little 3-year-old Aylan, lying on a Turkish beach after a failed attempt at a better life.
I can't separate them in my mind from the Statue of Liberty. When we came home from Europe after World War II our ship passed it on its way to port. On it are the words of 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 Statue of Liberty doesn't say anything about the color of one's skin or one's religion or one's country of origin. To those in our community who are immigrants, it speaks to you, and to us about you and about ourselves. We wish only the best for you. Part of our hope for the future is in you and your children. Help America be the America you have hoped for, the America that made you risk everything.
I ask those who represent us to remember the lamp beside the golden door, for many who have died for America were not Americans by way of Plymouth Rock or Jamestown. They were Americans by way of places like Ellis Island and El Paso, or perhaps they were Americans by way of Oraibi or Beautiful Mountain. Listen to the names of some of my comrades who didn't come home: Chillemi, Dupler, Hornstein, Klein, Kruzinski, Librone, Petracco, Robbio, Slutzkin, Speier, Yazujian, Zastresek. And yes, Humayun Khan, the son of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, was also a comrade who didn't come home, just from a later war.
I said I was speaking for Margaret and Verity and me, but in my heart I know I am also speaking for some who lie in cemeteries in France when I say these words:
O Beautiful for patriot dream; That sees beyond the years; Thine albaster cities gleam; Undimmed by human tears! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with Brotherhood; From sea to shining sea.
Philip C. Ellsworth