When entering this majestic building, you are reminded that families left their homes, families, friends and homelands to start a new life in the United States. The building is cavernous with tourists visiting the island and its wonderful exhibits today. During the years of 1880 and 1924, millions of immigrants traveled on large steamship liners, packed this building with long lines to register themselves, were subject to medical checkups, and entered the USA to seek a new life. In 1903 alone, one million immigrants passed through the doors of Ellis Island. Here, they were processed. They were quarantined. Some sick were sent back home. Others never left the island. Most were Europeans, but others came from countries around the world, including Asia. They brought with them everything they owned. Some had large trunks. But, for most, it was whatever they could carry.
Dozens and dozens of larger than life posters of immigrants, their families adorned the walls. Many wore their homeland garbs, representing the many cultures, customs and languages that underscores the USA as the world’s melting pot.
Posters promoted the USA as the land of plenty and the land of opportunity. One poster noted the USA was the land of “No Oppressive Taxes, No Expensive Kings, No Compulsory Military Service, No Knouts or Dungeons.” On the positive sides, the USA offered “Free Education, Free Land, Free Speech, Free Ballot, and Free Lunch.”
For those of you whose parents or grandparents chose to immigrate to the USA through Ellis island during these challenging years, admire their bravery, strength and perseverance to not only endure the long voyage to the USA, but also to endure the sacrifices they made to give you the opportunities you have today. Give them a hug and thank them for your being here and being American.
While the USA is struggling to get out of its struggling economic doldrums, the very spirits that brought their ancestors to the USA will help the USA emerge from its current crises.