Lady Liberty could use a makeover.
For generations, the Statue of Liberty has greeted immigrants and represented American ideals; she faced away from our coast, projecting our best to the world.
Standing proud and resolute in a robe with broken shackles at her feet, she fits in well with hundreds of years of artistic tradition and the mythology of statehood.
But like any symbol, she could use some updates to stay modern. A few suggestions:
First, get some new clothes. The robe and crown worked well, but a cap and gown would be a good change.
Freedom ultimately comes from our ability to triumph over “the darkness of ignorance and man’s oppression,” as President Cleveland remarked at the Statue’s dedication. Our most prominent national figure ought to reflect the role of education in that triumph.
Second, get rid of the torch.
While the torch is an enduring symbol – “the light which illuminates the way to man’s enfranchisement,” to again quote President Cleveland – a reference to fossil fuels is a bit contradictory to the message we should be sending to the rest of the world.
Consuming fossil fuels might imply financing leaders of oil-rich countries who have turned their back on liberty (see: Iran, Russia and Venezuela). A college degree makes for a better accessory – and one which serves as an affront to despots everywhere.
With the new outfit, keep the broken shackles. They should remind America and the world of the human bondage which still continues in the forms of sexual slavery and political tyranny.
Third, consider relocating to the west coast.
Lady Liberty’s current residence outside New York was a wise choice for the 19th and 20th centuries, but the shores of the Pacific seem a more appropriate choice for the coming century.
This change would allow the statue to look out to China and India. We would do well to recognize the important role these two rising nations will play in the next hundred years and the skills their immigrants will bring to America.
A move west would welcome these new citizens and provide them with an image befitting their thirst for education.
Aside from those suggestions, Ms. Liberty is holding up nicely and could be quite modern. As a woman clad in graduation attire, she does justice to the role of women in American universities.
Since the dedication of the statue in 1886, two of the most powerful and positive changes in America have been increased access to college and the equal opportunities provided to women.
Lady Liberty was the first glimpse of America for many immigrants a century ago. Those immigrants and their children quickly became valuable assets to our country, in part because of the message of hope which greeted them and the opportunities our nation provides.
These hopes and opportunities are still very real in America. At our best, America provides a powerful symbol to the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” as Emma Lazarus wrote. The American dream can help these masses become free, educated and contribute to the welfare of the word.
I don’t seriously suggest altering the Statue of Liberty, but I do suggest we should recognize the changes, which have occurred over generations. A new, enduring icon would benefit immigrants and the rest of America today, and help remind college students of the importance of their studies, an importance that they often overlook.
Daniel Gibson-Reinemer is a fishery and wildlife biology graduate student. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.