The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

Eleanor Roosevelt, JFK Campaign Ad

[Announcer]: Citizens for Kennedy present Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt on "The Make-up of America: A Majority of Minorities."
Eleanor Roosevelt: Our country is the oldest democracy in the world, but it is less than two-hundred years old. It is a country with ample room for growth. It is a land which needs today just as much as ever before to live by the prayer written about the Statue of Liberty.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door![1]
Our nation enjoys its strength and its vitality because we are a melting pot. Because we have widely differing backgrounds, ideas, cultures that have merged and have made exciting the prospect our pursuit of happiness. We must not let ourselves become concerned with what particular wave of immigration brought our people here, or on what wave of immigration they will come in the future. We must concern ourselves with our pledge, our oath to welcome them and provide them a home. We must be concerned only with providing them the opportunity to use their talents to the fullest capacity, so they may add their culture, their art, their skills, their faith, no matter how humble, to the structure of our nation. And we must build for our children and grandchildren. We must refresh our faith.
It would be well for us, before we vote, to read again our Bill of Rights.
You see, you need not be concerned with the color of a man's skin; it is the shade of the soul that is important to a democracy. You need not be concerned with how a man worships God, but the degree of faith. If we are to be the spokesmen for the free world we must begin at home by assuring all our peoples regardless of religion, race, or national origin, equal opportunity under law and under God. When you cast your vote for the president of the United States, be sure you have studied the record. I have. I urge you to vote for John F. Kennedy for I have come to believe that as president he will have the strength and the moral courage to provide the leadership for human rights we need in this time of crisis. He is a man with a sense of history. That I'm well familiar with because my husband had a sense of history. I urge you to study Mr. Kennedy's programs and I think you will join me in voting for John F. Kennedy for president.
     [1.] These lines are the final stanza of "The New Colossus," a poem written by Emma Lazarus in response to an 1883 appeal to help raise the funds necessary to purchase the pedestal base upon with the Statue of Liberty rests. Although the poem initially attracted little attention, Georgina Schuyler, who admired Lazarus's work, secured the permissions necessary to have the poem engraved into a bronze plaque and the plaque displayed inside the statue. The poem continued to draw scant attention until the Yugoslav-American journalist Louis Adamic used "The New Colossus" to highlight the refugee crises associated with World War II. In 1945, Ellis Island officials moved the plaque to the statue's main entrance. [Diane Ravitch, ed., The American Reader (New York: HarperCollins, 1990), pp. 174-175.]