“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses… I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

As the nation celebrates our veterans today, it is difficult to imagine a monument more closely associated with the American values that so many of them died to protect than the Statue of Liberty, beneath which these words of welcome are inscribed. Since its dedication in 1886, the statue has served as a visual representation of all that makes our country unique.

Few are more deserving of our admiration and thanks than the veterans that have fought to protect our country and what it stands for. Over the last two centuries, brave American men and women have gone into battle here and abroad to ensure that we retain our freedom.

My father was a veteran, and during my childhood he inspired in my siblings and me a deep respect for our country and our nation’s values – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When I see the Statue of Liberty today, I am reminded of my father and the sacrifices he, and others like him, made to secure and protect those values.

This monument calls to mind one important value in particular: America as the land of opportunity, where all have the ability to succeed. Because of its location in New York Harbor, Lady Liberty was, for millions of newcomers, their first glimpse of America’s promise.

It is this quality that has made America great. Through the generations, our nation has attracted newcomers from all corners of the globe, and we have welcomed them with open arms. As time has gone on, they have formed an integral part of the American cultural tapestry. Our way of life simply would not be the same without the influences of other cultures that have become a part of our national “melting pot.”

By accepting those who seek a new life and allowing them to improve their standing, America has gained a reputation as a beacon of freedom among all the nations on Earth. Given our conviction to liberty, is it any wonder that we are such an attractive destination for immigrants from the world over?

We have our veterans to thank for protecting the freedoms that have made America the greatest democracy in the world. So, on this Veterans’ Day, I ask you to reflect on how best to honor those to whom we owe everything, and how to honor the American values that they have sacrificed so much to protect.

It is a disservice to our veterans to reject the historic inclusivity of the United States for which they fought. To do so would be to reject what makes this nation exceptional.

The Statue of Liberty itself was a gift, commemorating the positive relationship between France and the United States. To maintain such relationships around the globe today, we must urge our leaders to continue to project a welcoming and compassionate attitude toward immigrants of all walks of life. We must focus on building friendships, not fences.

For over a century, the State of Liberty has lifted her lamp beside the golden door of America, and all of the opportunities that this land affords to those who arrive on its shores. Let us ensure, through our attitudes and our actions, that that door will remain open to future generations.