The S.S. Cedric Arrived in New York City on April 11, 1912
At 68 years old, after several years in prison because of his religion,1 'Abdu'l-Baha undertook a journey that took him from the Holy Land to various cities in Europe, across the Atlantic Ocean to America, and back to the Israel. This journey to America was a defining moment in the history of religion and the Baha'i Faith. One of the things he spoke about, while visiting this country, was its spiritual destiny.2 While in America 'Abdu'l-Baha exemplified Baha'u'llah's concept of unity by meeting and treating people of all genders, races, and religions with equality and respect. In addition, he laid the corner stone of the Baha'i Temple located on Lake Michigan close to Chicago, Illinois.
'Abdu'l-Baha, the oldest son of Baha'u'llah, was a passenger on the S.S. Cedric when it arrived in New York City on April 11, 1912. A tugboat, carrying several reporters, met the ship in the harbor and escorted it to the dock. One of those reporters, who interviewed 'Abdu'l-Baha on the deck of the Cedric, was Wendell Philips Dodge. Mr. Dodge wrote the following about this meeting:
"His face was light itself… He is a man of medium height, though at first sight he seemed to be taller… As he paced the deck, talking to reporters, he appeared alert and active in every movement, his head thrown back and splendidly poised upon his broad shoulders most of the time… When the ship was abreast the Statue of Liberty, standing erect and facing it, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá held his arms wide apart in salutation and said, ‘There is the New World’s symbol of liberty and freedom. After being forty years a prisoner, I can tell you freedom is not a matter of place. It is a condition… When one is released from the prison of self, that is indeed a release."3
'Abdu'l-Baha spent 239 days traveling across America4. Of the 239 days, 85 were devoted to meetings in New York City. Those 85 days were not consecutive, but interspaced between trips to other parts of the United States and Canada. During the time he spent in New York he spoke at several different locations, such as the Church of the Ascension and the Bowery Mission, and met with numerous well-known and ordinary people. 'Abdu'l-Baha ended his trip on December 5, 1912, when he boarded the Cedric to return to Europe.
It is this teaching trip that continues to inspire Baha'is throughout the United States to proclaim both Baha'u'llah's name and America's spiritual destiny. Baha'is believe that America's destiny is to lead the nations spiritually, as it has led them materially. Baha'is do not overlook the problems that are facing us, but rather we see those issues as tests to overcome as the country matures towards its great destiny. It is overcoming these issues, such as racism, that will make America the great country it is destined to be. Each day, as a part of their devotions, many Baha'is say The Prayer for America 5 by 'Abdu'l-Baha. On one of his visits to New York, 'Abdu'l-Baha revealed a prayer for that city.6