"Our government has only once stepped in and lifted people from the hands of death, providing refugees with shelter and security. Oswego was the one place selected for this, and recently made me think about the difference between the American duty as a political superpower and a country made of real people who may have a duty to others.
"In 1944, World War II ravaged European soil and drove millions of people into hiding or into the grave. President Franklin Roosevelt did something no American president had ever done, or has done since: took 982 displaced people away from Europe and granted them haven at Fort Ontario.
"They stayed at Fort Ontario 16 months housed in barracks, contained within a chain-linked fence topped with barbed wire. Yet, the community fought for these refugees to be given the same opportunities. Principal Ralph Faust from the high school brought the children into the district while residents would hand toys and bicycles over the fence.
"While the conditions were by no means ideal, considering today’s standards, they were remarkable. Think for a moment, most Americans would not consider these camps reputable because of our high level of disdain for the appearance of imprisonment and contempt for population density. Yet this is remarkable because we don’t do this today. America hasn’t offered her hand out to any other refugees since 1944.
"Roosevelt has been the only president that ever truly brought lives away from danger, while today America has stood by and watched the genocides in Darfur and the other inhuman actions take place across the globe.
"For a time, Oswego was a haven: the only place in the America that has ever acted as a shelter for war battered displaced persons. This is a layer of Oswego history that virtually no one knows about, a secret pearl. A very secret pearl.
"Many of the buildings that once housed the refugees have long been torn down, but some that survived have been repurposed. One of the long houses has been converted into the Frances Marion Theatre, home to the Oswego Players. Another, the former living quarters for the refuge center supervisor Joseph Smart, has been refurbished into the Safe Haven Museum.
"Why can’t we do this today? While discussing this with a board member at Safe Haven, they mentioned the fact that the Statue of Liberty is engraved with "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses." Does that apply anymore or will we only take in victims when Great Britain becomes Atlantis.
"What would it take for us as Americans to willing take in victims from a horrible tragedy? Our population has undoubtedly has raised millions of dollars towards the tragedy in Japan, we have yet to physically remove anyone from the situation. Should we? I don’t know the answer to that question, politically speaking. Should have our government Iraq for their freedom or bombing Libya, I don’t know. I really don’t, if I did, I wouldn’t be a junior at Oswego State.
"But as people, as other human beings, we probably should.
"But then again, maybe it won’t make any difference. Maybe all the hope, kindness and sympathy has left the world.