Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing Proclamation Adding Ellis Island to the Liberty Island National Monument.

May 11, 1965

Members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

For nearly three decades Ellis Island was a beacon of opportunity, a symbol of freedom for millions.

Between 1892 and 1930, 16 million immigrants entered America through the open doors of Ellis Island. These men, women, and children from many lands enriched the American melting pot. They brought to these shores a rich variety of individual gifts, a heritage derived from the total experience of all of their many nations. They made us not merely a nation, but nation of nations.

These steerage immigrants entered into the very fiber of American life. Each made contributions to the American cause. Others achieved greatness or rose to positions of national leadership. Among those who passed through Ellis Island were such eminent Americans as Irving Berlin, David Dubinsky, Father Flanagan, Justice Felix Frankfurter, Charles A. Lindbergh, Sr., Philip Murray, Jacob Potofsky, Adm. Hyman Rickover, Knute Rockne, David Sarnoff, Spyros Skouras, Igor Sikorsky. Vice President Humphrey's mother entered the United States through Ellis Island. Fiorello LaGuardia once worked as an interpreter there.

So we profit from the legacy of Ellis Island today in all parts of this great land of ours. Its meaning is symbolized here this morning by the presence of so many of our finest Members of Congress, nineteen of whose parents or grandparents entered the American gate at Ellis Island. Their names are Bayh, Hruska, Javits, Mansfield, Muskie, Pastore, Ribicoff, Cederberg, Daniels, Dent, Farbstein, Helstoski, Joelson, Mackay, Minish, Multer, Rodino, Pucinski, and Vanik. They all belong on a roster of honor that will someday surely be commemorated in this great national shrine.

So I am signing today a proclamation making Ellis Island a part of Liberty Island National Monument. In addition, I am asking Congress to enact legislation authorizing appropriations to. make Ellis Island a handsome shrine in the broad harbor of the great port of New York.

It is also my pleasure to announce approval of a Job Corps Conservation Center on the New Jersey shore adjacent to Ellis Island. Once this center is established, Job Corps. men will transform and restore Ellis Island and help the State of New Jersey create a new Liberty State Park in a blighted section of the Jersey City waterfront.

This exciting Federal-State project will preserve a bright chapter in American history. It will bring beauty where there is now blight. It will demonstrate at the very doorstep of our largest metropolis the opportunity that is offered us if we are wise enough to cherish our authentic historic places and accept the challenge of the new conservation.

I also hope that this Congress will draw on the lessons of Ellis Island and enact legislation to provide America with a wise immigration policy adapted to the needs of the 1960's.

Earlier this year I sent to the Congress a proposal to replace the outdated national origins quota system. I asked the Congress to replace this worn out system with a new one, a schedule of immigration priorities based on the skills of applicants, skills that this Nation now needs, and on the existence of close family relationships between applicants and United States citizens.

This long overdue change, rooted as it is in national interests and in humanitarianism, should be enacted without further delay.

I know in my heart that the people of this Nation truly believe that every individual ought to be judged on his worth as a human being and by the contribution that he makes to his country. He ought not be judged on the church he attends, or how he spells his name, or the color of his skin. We are committed in this land to that belief and our efforts will never cease until it has really, in actuality, become a permanent fact as well as a guiding principle.

Thank you very much.

Note: The president spoke at 11 :42 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. He referred to Proclamation 3656 "Adding Ellis Island to the Statue of Liberty National Monument" (30 F.R. 6571, 3 CFR, 1965 Supp.).

A bill (H.J. Res. 454), providing for the development of Ellis Island as a part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, was approved by the President on August 17, 1965 (Public Law 89-129, 79 Stat. 543).

An act to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act was approved by the President on October 3, 1965 (see Item 546).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing Proclamation Adding Ellis Island to the Liberty Island National Monument. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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