[Edit: Due to the cold, speakers were cut short. I still stand by these remarks, and the following essay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.]
My name is Steven Saus.
My great-grandfather’s name is written in the books on Ellis Island.
He arrived here, an immigrant, in 1915, fleeing from conflict, hoping for a better life, and drawn by the words written on the base of a statue. He left his home and followed the promising light of a statue’s lamp held high in New York Harbor.
My great-grandfather worked in the mines in Ohio. His son made parts for electric poles in Cleveland and fought Nazis in World War Two. His son became a college professor in West Virginia. And I … I stand before you here thanks to their hard work and sacrifice.
There is a tradition in our country. A tradition of all kinds of people, coming from all across the world. A tradition of immigrants.
It is a long tradition.
Seven of the thirty-nine who signed the Constitution were immigrants.
Three of the first Supreme Court justices were immigrants.
A tenth – a full tenth – of Congressmen in the very first Congress of this country were immigrants.
We have listened too long to those who claim that immigration weakens our country. Their lies corrupt what our Founders knew from their own lives and experience.
Thomas Paine wrote that that immigrants came to America “not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster.”
Surely that is still the case today.
And yet. And yet.
And yet we hear those men – the PRESIDENT – speak from gilded halls and gilded chairs how they will refuse those fleeing cruel monsters. We hear those men say how they want to destroy the very foundations and traditions of this country that welcomed them and their ancestors.
Our country has long been a beacon of hope, but those men want to tarnish that beacon! They want to hide it under a bushel basket. They want to steal it for their very own.
And we say no.
Men like them have succeeded in the past.
To our shame, America has turned away refugees fleeing genocide. To our shame, America has even turned against and imprisoned our own people just because of where they – or their parents – were born.
The plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty ends with these words: “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
We gathered here – those born in this country and those who are not – are NOT here to just protest. We are NOT gathered here in negativity and hatred.
Oh no. Though the very office of the Presidency has been corrupted, we are doing far more than just saying “no” to a petty man.
We are here to preserve the true heritage of this country. A country of immigrants.
We are here to lift high that inviting lamp and throw open that golden door. We are gathered to say loudly, in a voice that will not be silenced, “YOU ARE WELCOME HERE.”