Regardless of how we feel about the current immigration debate, most Americans can at least agree on the historic significance of immigration in building the economy and culture of the United States.
So it's especially relevant, as we head into the Independence Day holiday, that funds are being raised to build a standalone museum on Liberty Island to lay out the history of the Statue of Liberty. A gift from France in 1886 to commemorate the alliance between France and the U.S. during the Revolutionary War, the copper-clad statue is officially called "Liberty Enlightening the World." It gained a symbolic significance to immigrants because it was often the first sight in America to those arriving from Europe.
One of the shipping companies that brought immigrants past the statue was Cunard Line, founded by Samuel Cunard, ironically the son of a timber merchant who had fled the American Revolution to live in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In 1954, a young Micky Arison may have sailed by Lady Liberty to arrive in New York on Cunard's Mauretania. Now the chairman of Carnival Corp., which owns Cunard, Arison arrived with his father, Ted, who brought the family from Israel to seek out new economic opportunity here.
Now Cunard is lending its voice and dollars to a crowdsourcing campaign to fund a 26,000-square-foot Statue of Liberty Museum being organized by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.
For the monthlong commitment, which starts July 4, the first person who donates $10,000 and selects Cunard's contribution on the campaign page will receive a transatlantic crossing for two on the Queen Mary 2, including airfare. The first $5,000 donation receives a private tour and lunch for two at the Britannia restaurant on the QM2 while it is docked in New York, along with airfare to the Big Apple.
The first 100 people to donate $18.86, the year Lady Liberty was dedicated (and select Cunard on the campaign page) will get a Cunard desktop notepad engraved with the iconic Cunard crest. Those giving the symbolic donation of $18.86 or more will also have their name permanently recorded in the Founders Registry, a digital donor list on display in the museum and on the museum's website and be collectively recognized in the Founders Star on a mural in the museum.
This isn't the first time a fundraising campaign had a lasting impact on Liberty Island. In 1883, to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the statue, poet Emma Lazarus wrote "The New Colossus," which included the line "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." The phrase was later inscribed on a plaque mounted inside the pedestal.
At a time when there's not a lot of positive rhetoric surrounding the issue of immigration, Cunard's support for the museum gives people a chance to light some candles rather than curse the darkness.
Let's hope the Statue of Liberty museum organizers reach their $100 million funding goal quickly and the museum opens its doors in 2019 as scheduled, with a little help from Samuel Cunard's namesake shipping concern.