DETROIT -- Lee Iacocca, preparing to reopen New York's Ellis Island next weekend, says the racial melting pot is what makes America work.
"Whether it's food, or dress, or the arts, music, whatever," he said. "If we're losing control of our destiny, it's because we aren't facing up to our heritage. And what's that? Back to Ellis Island."
The Chrysler Corp. chairman led the drive to raise $345 million to restore Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, which was rededicated in 1986.
Next Sunday, Iacocca will help dedicate the new Ellis Island Immigration Museum and designate the 27-acre site on the island in New York Harbor as a national shrine.
Immigrants have learned that hard work and sacrifice are keys to a better life, Iacocca said.
Iacocca, an immigrant's son, said the gateway to the United States for 17 million Americans can give the country a needed boost of morale. But the Ellis Island celebration will be low-key -- dinner and speeches -- compared with the hoopla of the statue four years ago.
"One guy called me and said, 'What are you, crazy? Why are we having a black-tie dinner? Is that in keeping with the immigrant experience?' I said, 'What do you want, for us to come in rags?' " Iacocca said. "I just thought it would be a nice touch, and you do honor to the fact that we made it -- we can even afford to rent a tux."