Jon Stewart on the Meaning of Service and Sacrifice

Nov 10, 2017

November 10, 2017

Jon Stewart volunteers with The Mission Continues

After a day of serving alongside almost a hundred volunteers with The Mission Continues at Ellis Island, Jon Stewart took a minute to reflect on the meaning of service and sacrifice in our country, for veterans and civilians alike. It felt appropriate at the time (for our 9/11 Day of Service project) and feels appropriate to reflect now that Veterans Day is upon us.

He scanned Ellis Island’s Wall of Honor, which displays over 700,000 names of immigrants who came through Ellis, including his own grandparents. Finding their names inspired him to speak about his personal background and how it connects to service today. 

We thought this would be an inspiring and thought-provoking piece to accompany your Veterans Day weekend. Hopefully, his words inspire you to volunteer alongside veterans for Veterans Day just as it has inspired us.


It’s always an honor to do a project with you guys. It’s great to see you all come together and to create such a great spirit of cooperation and support and harmony.

You know we talk about national parks and we talk about the history of our country and our democratic ideals. This place is personal to me. I walked the walls and I found my grandparents on those walls. And when they came here, they were scared. They didn’t come here on the Queen Mary. They came here in steerage — little tiny Lithuanian people with goiters.

My grandfather basically had a shit store. It basically sold left shoes. Like whatever he could find, that’s what he sold. To give their kids an opportunity to be in this country my father served in Korea and they all fought to give me an opportunity to attain what I could attain and now I do that for my children.

The fact that we come here and try to make this place look as welcoming as we can says to people like my grandparents: “you have nothing now, but we welcome you here. Come and make something of yourself.”

And we can’t lose that. It’s such an important part. And we see its very easy to point to people who are not like us and say “you’re the problem. If we got rid of you, we’d all be better off.” That’s bullshit. The strength of our communities is right here.

You can walk those walls and see names that remind you of your relatives, and understand that what you are is what makes America great, and you make my day great. Thank you.


Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.

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