The Golden Gate Bridge, to many, may be a misnomer. As those who have seen the iconic landmark can attest, it is certainly not golden like the name would suggest. It is more of an orange, a backdrop to bright blue skies and a matching hue of ocean water… but I am no artist.
Some say its name originates from the popularity San Francisco saw during the gold rush of 1848 (the San Francisco 49ers football team is yet another misnomer of this fact), however, the name’s real origins come from a man named John C. Fremont, who, after seeing the channel of water that connects the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean was reminded of the Bay of Byzantine, also known as the Golden Horn in Turkey.
He referred to this new channel as the “Golden Strait,” and today, more than a century later, its name may be even more relevant because of the connotations and ideals it elicits within people.
On May 27th, 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge opened after over five years of construction. The bridge was built in the midst of the Great Depression, a depression era in US history that extended from the stock market crash of 1929 to the US military involvement in World War Two in 1941. During this time, unemployment rates fluctuated between 25-35%. (Presently, the unemployment rate for the US is just 4.1%.) In addition to these dire factors, the Dust Bowl in the middle states was destroying great amounts of agriculture, putting farms out of business and resulting in a dearth of food and supplies.
The manufacturing of the bridge was strategically placed in order to give Americans jobs. When we look at the bridge’s manufacturing today we see the great strength and perseverance of the builders, and therefore the American people of that era.
The Golden Gate Bridge, like the Statue of Liberty, is seen as a gateway into the US for those who emigrated from the east.
For many, it connotes freedom and prosperity, the American Dream’s cornerstones, promoting the idea that if you work hard enough for your goals you can achieve them.
The bridge also symbolizes the connection of two worlds (i.e., San Francisco to Marin County) as a means of travel, conversation, and understanding between cultures.
After the establishment of the 1965 Immigration Act, an influx of people from Asia and South America flooded into the US with the American Dream at the forefronts of their minds. And, as a result, many were able to create prosperous lives based off this mindset.
The Bridge’s complex history can be looked at as a representation of the stability of the US and our people. It is young, like our country, but has endured much and withstands the test of time. For example, the quake of 1989 that centered near the Loma Prieta peak that left San Francisco in devastation, but did not cause the bridge to fall.
Our country has faced and still faces many obstacles to adhere to what the American Dream is actually defined as.
The recent shootings plaguing our country are great tragedies that shake us to the core and raise furious arguments and justifications about the amendments that serve as the basis of our country — but just as the bridge still stands, there is hope, and there is the American dream.
The ideals that lie behind the bridge are things we have to remember today. So many people have come — or wish to come — to this country for the chance of a better life.
But we, as US citizens, are already here! We must make the most of our opportunities and embrace those who truly wish to encompass these ideals.
The repeal of the Dream Act, the alleged building of the wall between Mexico and the US, and the denial of Syrian refugees into this country are acts and initiatives that go directly against the principles of the Golden Gate Bridge. There will always be people who want to better their lives and will work hard to achieve this. The US, from our revolutions to our present, has always been a beacon of hope for people with these principles.
Kena DeLong is a freshman at San Francisco State University. She is studying photojournalism and political science.