I often get my “America feeling.” I get it when I vote, or when I look at my passport, or when I listen to the song “The Farmer and the Cowman” from the 1943 musical Oklahoma! (If you want to hear me talk about my intense feelings about that song, here’s the link to the episode of A Little Happier where I talk about it.)
And just the other day, I was hit by the America feeling, very strongly.
I live in New York City, and one of the great advantages of living here is that I’m constantly seeing iconic sights. I’m going through my ordinary day, and suddenly I’ll see the Brooklyn Bridge, or the Empire State Building, or the bull statue in the Financial District.
But like anything that you see every day, sometimes I take these landmarks for granted. I look at the gorgeous Washington Square Arch and don’t even really notice it.
But it occurred to me that there’s one landmark in New York City that I never take for granted, and it seems to me that other people don’t take it for granted either.
And that’s the Statue of Liberty.
I’ve been on planes crowded with jaded New Yorkers who are absorbed in their devices and ignoring the pilot, and when the pilot says, “And if you look out the window on the left, you’ll see a great view of the Statue of Liberty,” everyone looks, to try to look out the windows.
And when I walk on the far west side of the city, when the Statute of Liberty begins to come into view, I’ve seen how everyone’s heads lift, and everyone looks for it as they approach the water.
I have a friend who lives on the far west side, in one of those buildings with giant windows. I was visiting her, and looking out at the Statue of Liberty, and I said, “I bet you don’t even notice the statue anymore, it’s just part of the background for you,” and she said, “You know, actually, not. Every morning when I have my first cup of coffee I stand at the window and look at it.”
So what is it about the Statue of Liberty? It’s monumental of course. It’s striking. It’s unique. And each time I look at it, I remember the words inscribed on its base:
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!
That’s the story of my family. And it’s the story of my husband’s family (different version). And it’s the story of Elizabeth’s husband’s family (another different version).
The Statue of Liberty represents one of the great dreams of the United States. And every time I look at that statue, I ask myself: What am I doing, in my own life, to live up to the highest ideals of my country?
Yes, the Statue of Liberty gives me the “America feeling.” I feel lucky to live in a city where I get to see it so often.