It was a busy first week of work for President Obama, and one filled with some landmark executive orders.
Within two days of taking the oath of office, President Obama’s administration announced that Guantanamo is to be closed in a year, waterboarding is no longer a legitimate form of interrogation (covert or otherwise), and so-called “black sites” (secret detention facilities) and the practice of extraordinary rendition are to be rendered obsolete immediately.
Alongside these announcements, though, was a hint that another important policy change would be implemented forthwith, and it’s one that’s likely to delight New Yorkers and tourists alike: the Statue of Liberty’s crown might soon be reopened to visitors.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited the Statue of Liberty on Friday. He indicated that the administration views re-opening Liberty’s crown to visitors as a priority, though he acknowledged that any policy change will depend upon the conclusions reached in a safety report that is expected to be issued in April.
Liberty’s crown has been closed to the public since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The National Park Service, which is responsible for maintaining the Statue and the grounds upon which it sits, decided that crown visits needed to be suspended due to safety concerns, as the design of the crown prevented a quick exit in the event of an emergency.
Even the expression of interest in re-opening the crown is a gesture of symbolic significance that isn’t lost upon New Yorkers or visitors who view the Statue of Liberty as an American icon. The Obama administration’s prioritization of the re-opening of the crown seems to reaffirm a statement he made in his inauguration speech:
“…[W]e reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”
Photo: David Paul Ohmer