15. Flotsam, Jetsam, and Liberty
By James Carey
Perhaps more than anything else in the world, I believe in liberty: liberty for myself, liberty for my fellow men.
I cannot forget the legend engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty on Bedlows Island in New York Harbor: 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. That is the voice of America.
As one small part of it, one tiny decibel in its sound, I, as a free individual of America, believe in it.
It makes no boast of noble ancestry. On the contrary, it admits honestly that each of us in this country, with a possible and qualified exception of our native Indians, is a displaced person.
In a particular kind of way, the Indian was our first displaced person. If you and I did not come from abroad ourselves, our forefathers did. The scores that drove them was economic, political, or religious oppression.
Oppression has always strewn the shores of life with wretched human refuse. We who today are the proud people of a proud country are what might be called the reclaimed refuse of other lands.
The fact that the flotsam and the jetsam, the persecuted and the pursued of all these other lands, the fact that they came here and, for the most part, successfully started life anew, this renews my faith in the resilience of a human individual and the dignity of man.
There are those who say we should be content with the material benefits we have accrued among ourselves. I cannot accept that for myself. A laboring man needs bread and butter, and cash to pay the rent.
But he would be a poor individual, indeed, if he were not able to furnish the vestibule of his mind and his soul with spiritual embellishments beyond the price of a union contract.
I mean by this that I believe it is important for a man to discover, whether he is an electrical worker or an executive, that he is an individual with his own resources and a sense of the dignity of his own person and that of other men.
We are separate. We are collective. Man can be strong alone but not indomitable, in isolation. He has to belong to something, to realize he is not created separately or apart from the rest of mankind, whether he is an American or a Mohammedan.
I am stirred by the abundance of the fields, the forest, the streams, and the natural resources they hold.
But do these things make me important? Have we wrought the miracle of America because of these riches we hold? I say, no.
Our strength—and I can say my strength, too, because I am a part of this whole—lies in a fundamental belief in the validity of human rights. And I believe that a man who holds these rights in proper esteem is greater, whether he is recognized or not.
As an individual, I must face the future with honesty and faith, in the goods things that have made us mighty. I must have confidence in myself, in others, and all men of goodwill everywhere, for freedom is the child of truth and confidence.