Lady Liberty Celebrates 125 Years in New York Harbor

Posted October 28th, 2011 at 4:35 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. Statue of Liberty, for years a symbol of hope to immigrants to New York City, turned 125 years old Friday with a party that included naturalizing new citizens, reading of a historic poem, and setting evening fireworks.

Also, of course, there was a cake: an enormous green replica of the statue itself, a robed woman holding a tablet in one arm and raising a torch aloft with the other.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gave the keynote address, welcoming 125 immigrants who took the oath of citizenship during the ceremony.

Actress Sigourney Weaver read aloud the poem by Emma Lazarus that is mounted inside the statue, which is set in New York Harbor. Titled “The New Colossus,” it includes the famous line, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and concludes, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

In a nod to the fact that the statue was a gift to the United States from France, the ceremony included both the U.S. and the French national anthems.

France gave the United States the massive copper-covered structure as a symbol of friendship in the 19th century. It was inaugurated October 28, 1886 and became the first thing many immigrants from Europe saw on the horizon as their ships drew near to the U.S. shore.

Originally meant for use as a lighthouse, the statue nicknamed “Lady Liberty” faces the open water, as if to greet those immigrants approaching their new home.

Friday's events also included the activation of five web-cams mounted on the statue, including the torch, where only maintenance workers are allowed to go because of safety concerns.

After the party, the interior of Lady Liberty is to be closed for a year for renovation.