It’s been a difficult weekend for all of us. We’ve watched in horror as an executive decree that might have been ripped from the pages of a dystopian novel tore families apart, challenged our notions of human decency, undermined the rule of law, and threatened America’s most cherished values. As a museum that tells the story of immigration, we know that this country has not always lived up to its extraordinary ideals. We know, as a museum community committed to sharing the American story, the tragedies to which racial and religious tests have led in the past. But we also know that immigration has always allowed us to become more than we already are as a people—and that this nation’s best values have shaped a society that is the envy of the world. We are justly proud that immigrants continue to want bring their dreams to this country—and that refugees have been able to escape homelands ravaged by the carnage of war, consumed by race hatred, and mired in self-destructive ignorance to rebuild their lives here. At least they were until this past weekend.
Last year’s electoral campaign made clear that the victories generations of Americans have won in the struggle to advance human rights would not continue to come without additional effort. We’ve inherited much from those who fought to win independence and create a republic; from those who knew that slavery and economic injustice and health insecurity would not yield without determination. Beyond rights, and beyond progress toward justice, earlier generations have vouchsafed us the responsibility to act in our time to preserve their achievements and build on them. We should take comfort that so many of our fellow Americans have demonstrated in the past few days their willingness to protect America’s enduring values. Our work at the Museum figures importantly—more importantly than ever before—in the work of our time. As we welcome visitors and share stories of the American past, we are doing our part to help our nation endure. Let’s find strength in our shared mission.
- Morris J. Vogel, President of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum