By Charlotte Van Steenbergen ©2003

Oh, America, when I first

came and saw your beauty

entering the harbor in New York.

Shivers of excitement and anticipation

went through me,

upon seeing a Lady

beckoning us

holding high her torch—

The Statue of Liberty.

Oh, a symbol so powerful

speaking of, and representing

the dreams, hopes and longings

of its huddled masses

who came before me.

Now offering all that and more

once again to those who enter.


It is a cycle repeated over and over

as they come from all parts of the world,

crossing the borders

by land, sea and air.

The poor, the broken

and the dreamers,

all coming, wanting to know

the way to freedom.


Oh, America, how can one not love you?

For is it not so, that it is

because you loved first?

Now we can start healing our broken spirit

and mend our body

so we can start

dreaming, working, and learning.

Yearning to integrate ourselves

to become one of mind, body and soul



Oh, America, how I love you,

for opening wide your arms

to a wretch like me.

For reaching out with your infinite love

to rescue me, a stranger

a foreigner…WHY?


Oh, America, I thank you

for sending the masses

of sons and daughters to distant

land and shores far away.

To fight and risk laying down your life

so that I might taste your freedoms

enjoy your hospitality,

sanctuary, and refuge.

And above all, to share in your wealth

and worship your God!


Oh, America, for that,

I thank thee from the bottom

of my heart.

God bless you!




*Charlotte is a WWII Japanese concentration camp survivor and came to America as a refugee in 1957.


  1. Dear Charlotte van Steenbergen. We know how you feel, although we live not in America but in New Zealand. I was born in Malang but when WWII started, we happened to be in the Netherlands as my Father had gone with ‘study furlough’. Although he just had completed his study and my parents had booked to go back with the ‘Oranje’ she never left. I was by then only 5 years old but I longed to go back, what we did in 1947. This was only for a short time as Indie became independent.
    At later age I got married and a few years later we emigrated to New Zealand and had a similar experience as you had in the USA. Thank God for this change of life. . .

  2. Thank you, dear Charlotte, for this beautiful poem! You are so talented!
    May God bless America and may God continue to bless you and your family.
    With love from your friends Peter and Louise.

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