“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,”

You’ve heard it. You’ve read it. You may have even quoted it. Do you believe it?

Have you thought of it this way?

“Give me your females, your disabled 
Your Asian, Latino, and Black talent yearning for greater prosperity”

The New Colossus

The poem, The New Colossus by American poet, Emma Lazarus was written in 1883 to raise money for the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty now stands. This poem has been quoted by political figures throughout the last century to draw attention to why America is the land of opportunity for all. She, America, accepts anyone with her torch lit and her arms open. Or does she?

Before the poet states the invitation to the “huddled masses” There is a voice within the poem that offers a warning.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips.

I interpret this line this way:

  • Keep” = Stop
  • Ancient lands” = people who have previously enjoyed freedom and prosperity
  • Your storied pomp” = From saying one thing and doing another
  • “With silent lips” = and pay attention!

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

Diversity is more than lip service

The voice within the poem identifies a problem to be addressed—don’t just say what you’re going to do but actually do it! The voice then whispers the invitation of opening the gates and allowing all who desire, to come and be free.

Looking at this poem through the corporate lens, it might read like this:

“Hold, ye C-suite and board-rooms, your lip service!” cries she
Through a whisper. “Give me your females, your disabled
Your Asian, Latino, and Black talent yearning for greater prosperity”

Diversity requires limiting bias

Companies today want to be seen as being diverse. They are quick to shout, “Give me your females, your disabled, your Asian, Latino, and Black talent.” Does your company pay lip service to the invitation and fail to follow the warning, “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!”? Or are you actually putting this creed into practice?

The poem, The New Colossus is just as much about breaking old habits of making decisions based on our level of comfort (our bias) as it is about straightening the road for all to travel an equal distance. Now is the time to give up your “ancient and storied pomp”. Ignorance is no longer bliss. Technology exists for your employees to see talent for talent’s sake and together with a diverse workforce enjoy greater prosperity.