Eve has her Bachelor's degree in history and Master's degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania. She was a classroom teacher for 5 years and an adjunct instructor at the collegiate level for 2 years.
From Sea to Shining Sea
At some point in the course of American history, nearly all of our ancestors made the voyage from their homeland to our shores in search of a new life. Maybe yours sailed for weeks on a boat, full of hope, bringing only what they could carry with them. Perhaps they fled war or genocide, focused only on getting out of their origin country alive. Maybe some had friends or relatives already settled into American life while others set out into the unknown. Whatever the stories of your family, it is all of these stories that make the USA such a varied, interesting, and unique country.
Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
As immigration to the United States increased during the 19th century, many Americans grew concerned that the individuals arriving by the thousands would be a burden on society. In 1890, the federal government took control of immigration and, in 1892, opened Ellis Island in Upper New York Bay to be a primary checkpoint for inspection. Here, health, skills, and viability as Americans were assessed before people were permitted to enter New York. Sometimes individuals or families were detained, quarantined, or deported if they were found to not meet the accepted standards. Still, between 1892 and 1954, millions of people from around the world went through Ellis Island to chase their American dreams.
Ellis Island Medal of Honor
In 1984, the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) was founded to not only celebrate the melting pot of American people but to preserve Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, which represent the immigrant experience that characterizes America. In 1986, there was a Liberty Weekend gala to celebrate not only the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty's dedication, but also the completion of her restoration. At this celebration, President Ronald Reagan awarded the Medal of Liberty to a small group of high profile Americans; however, many felt that this did not represent the true diversity of the American population.
Later that same year, NECO responded to those sentiments and began awarding the Ellis Island Medal of Honor to individuals each year who characterized its mission, which NECO chairman, Nasser J. Kazeminy, has stated, ''is about investing in the power of caring, whereas people from all cultures and walks of life stand together arm in arm to make a real difference in our world through shared compassion and philanthropy - not just for now, but to also inspire future generations who will continue to preserve and build upon the legacy that each of our cultures has contributed.''
The Ellis Island Medal of Honor recognizes those who have made a significant impact on their communities through a life of service. It is also important to NECO that honorees celebrate their ancestry as well as American values. There are five criteria that identify the award's winners:
- Ethnic Heritage
While the idea behind the Ellis Island Medal of Honor is to recognize a broad segment of the population, there have been a number of notable honorees. Over the years, six US Presidents, one foreign President, Nobel Prize winners, and leaders of various fields have received the award. Some of the well-known names include Muhammed Ali, Yogi Berra, Rosa Parks, Henry Kissinger, Frank Sinatra, Martin Scorsese, and many more.
The government thinks so highly of NECO and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipients, that in 2002, the House of Representatives passed a resolution and recognized NECO's goal to ''preserve ethnic diversity, promote equality and tolerance, combat injustice, and bring about harmony and unity among all peoples,'' by commending NECO and recognizing the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
The Ellis Island Medal of Honor is a prestigious award for civilians, with medalists being entered in the Congressional Record every year. Diversity, ingenuity, and community have always been parts of the American dream, and those who best represent those values are recognized each year at a gala on Ellis Island. NECO honors individuals from all backgrounds, acknowledging the immigrant experience and the growth that has come from generations since.
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