By 1982, a century's worth of weather, pollution, and sightseeing had left Lady Liberty's crown, torch and gown badly in need of a comprehensive refurbishing. So it was a great honor for me to accept President Reagan's request that I lead a private sector effort to raise funds for the restoration and preservation of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Thanks to the generous donations of proud American citizens - from grandparents to school children - we were able to raise $500 million to restore these two great monuments to freedom. I still remember the overwhelming feeling of pride that swept over me when we unveiled the restored Great Lady in 1986. It was July 4th weekend, with a gala three-day event attended by President Reagan and President Francois Mitterand of France.
Following those efforts, we turned our attention to the restoration of Ellis Island. This symbol of the American immigrant experience had been left to deteriorate even more than Lady Liberty. Once again, people responded to our call with incredible passion and generosity. The Island reopened two years ahead of schedule in 1990, along with the world-class Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which has hosted some 25 million visitors since.
Today, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Foundation is dedicated to running and preserving these two great landmarks. Learn more about how you can support The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.