By Professor Joseph Cheruvelil
In the heart of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, a short distance from the Delaware River and Penn’s Landing, stands Independence Hall, one of the most sacred temples in our republic. It is in that building that in 1776, fifty-six patriotic men signed the declaration and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, thereby jeopardizing their settled lives, their careers, and their wealth, even inviting death from King George and his war machine. Among the treasures in that historic building is the Liberty Bell with a small crack on its side. That crack reminds us that the freedom and individual liberties, which we take for granted, are fragile and that we must be vigilant all the days of our lives to let freedom ring, and to preserve our democracy, which even George Washington once described as “an experiment.”
At the end of the Constitutional Convention, when the founding fathers were asked about what they had formulated, Benjamin Franklin, the senior sage among them, replied, “You have a republic if you can keep it.” Today, twelve score and five years later, we find ourselves in a quagmire where our fundamental values and beliefs are vilified by extreme left-wing groups, and even our way of life is threatened by the fake media, race-card playing career politicians, and an ever-increasing amount of free riders on the system. This is no longer an issue for academic debate; this is an emergency!
Less than a few hundred miles from the Liberty Bell stands Lady Liberty in the middle of New York Harbor, her feet firmly planted in the bedrock under the whirlpool of that busy waterway, her strong hand proudly holding the torch of freedom, which for hundreds of years welcomed millions of impoverished, even enslaved people to this our blessed land of equality and opportunity. They came fatigued and famished after weeks of travel across turbulent oceans and apprehensive about an uncertain future, but with strong faith in the providence of a merciful God, a determination to be an integral part of this great country, and a willingness to earn an honest living. Dressed in rags and carrying raggedy suitcases, often with no money and no marketable skills, they landed and submitted whole-heartedly to this country’s immigration laws and naturalization process. Many were admitted, but a few unfortunate ones were rejected. Eventually, decades and decades later, their children and grandchildren became productive citizens. Some of them even became rich and famous.
Rich or poor, hundreds of their names are inscribed on the Immigrant Wall of Honor at Ellis Island, including mine. I too came with only eight dollars in my pocket, in a cargo ship (it was cheaper) lugging an old metallic trunk with a few items of clothing and some books. On a drizzly October day, I landed in Brooklyn, a few yards south of Brooklyn Bridge. I had my fears and worries, but I persevered and thrived thanks to the abundant opportunities in this prosperous country and thanks to the good will of our generous people: a Polish immigrant who worked in the stockyards in Chicago (where I first lived) gave me a used winter coat; a janitor’s assistant gave me a quarter for my first Christmas. This promised land gave me several years of graduate education, a challenging and fulfilling job as a university professor, a home in Queens with a beautiful backyard, what the gifted novelist Thomas Wolfe called “a piece of the everlasting earth.” And God willing, when the time comes, I hope that my body will dissolve into the soil of this blessed land. As is proudly proclaimed in our most cherished patriotic songs, let freedom ring over the earth, especially where our brave men and women, mostly young, sacrificed their lives for our liberties: from Lexington and Concord to Valley Forge and Charleston; from Gettysburg and Fredericksburg to Vicksburg and Shiloh; from Pearl Harbor to Normandy Beach; from Vietnam to Korea; from Iraq to Afghanistan and elsewhere. God save our men and women in uniform; God bless our hard-working, tax-paying, flag-saluting, law-abiding, honest, and patriotic citizens. God save our enduring republic. And God Bless America.
Prof. Joseph Cheruvelil is a popular conservative speaker who served on faculty of the English Dept. of St. John’s University. He is known to be a Catholic in religion, a Hindu in culture, a conservative in politics, and an eclectic in taste. A Passage to America: Notes of an Adopted Son is an anecdotal autobiography of Prof. Joseph M. Cheruvelil.