Emma Lazarus is best remembered for her poem, "The New Colossus." However, in a recent touring exhibit the visited Drake Memorial Library, her fascinating life and experiences as a Jewish immigrant highlight the late 19th century immigrant experience, much of which is still relevant today. Many groups sought entrance to the United States during Emma’s lifetime for a variety of reasons, from escaping war and famine, to religious persecution, to abject poverty. The outcome for our country was incredibly positive, as these immigrants or their descendants made immeasurable advances for the country in arts, politics and sciences.
The United States today continues to be a magnet for those seeking a better life, and as these new immigrants are assimilated into our society, it can have only positive outcomes for our culture as a whole. We must keep in mind that most of us came of immigrant stock, and rather than isolating ourselves or the newcomers, embrace the fresh ideas and news customs they bring with them.