Golden Spike Centennial
“Who else but Americans could drill ten tunnels in mountains 30 feet deep in snow? Who else but Americans could chisel through miles of solid granite? Who else but Americans could have laid ten miles of track in 12 hours?” Those were the impassioned words of John A. Volpe, Secretary of Federal Transportation, as he addressed the crowd at the centennial ceremony in Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1969. The Golden Spike ceremony, as the event was called, was a momentous occasion that marked the centennial of the first transcontinental railroad. The Chinese community had high hopes that the ceremony would provide an opportunity for the nation to formally recognize the significant contributions of the 12,000 Chinese workers who helped build the transcontinental railroad. Their hopes were bolstered by discussions the Chinese Historical Society of America had with centennial officials in the months before where it was agreed that they would be allotted five minutes during the ceremony to pay tribute to the Chinese railroad workers. However, as Volpe’s oversight demonstrated, history once again repeated itself and the Chinese were left out of the centennial program with only a passing mention of their role in the transcontinental railroad.
Despite the missed opportunity at the Golden Spike ceremony to formally recognize the Chinese role in the transcontinental railroad on a national level, the Society was successful in achieving its other objective of the centennial: dedicating two commemorative bronze plaques in honor of the Chinese railroad workers. The plaques were placed in Sacramento, California and Promontory, Utah, the respective starting and ending point of the Central Pacific Railroad. A separate dedicatory ceremony was held by the Society following the Golden Spike ceremony. The plaques were a joint effort coordinated by the Society with the support of the Chinese community, and would serve as a reminder to future generations of the vital role the Chinese played in constructing the transcontinental railroad.
“世界上除了美國人還有誰能在30英尺厚大雪覆蓋的山上開鑿出十條隧道？除了美國人還有誰能用錘子鑿開出數英里的花崗岩？除了美國人還有誰能夠在12個小時內鋪設10英裡的鐵軌？”這些都是約翰 A. 沃爾普, 聯邦運輸部部長在1969年5月10日猶他州海角市紀念鐵路建成百週年慶典上當衆演說的慷慨陳詞。“金穗百年”，如同儀式的名字一樣，這個活動意義非凡，標誌著第一條橫貫大陸的鐵路建成整一百週年。華人社區對這次紀念活動寄予了很高的期望，他們希望通過這次機會讓整個國家正式承認12,000名華工對鐵路修建的重要貢獻。這個願望得到了美國華人歷史學會的支持，學會在幾個月前和慶典活動官方委員會達成一致意見，在儀式上將有五分鐘時間用來褒獎中國鐵路工人。然而，正如沃爾普監督所展示的那樣，歷史再次重演，華工再一次被排除在外，只有寥寥數語提及了他們在修建鐵路中的作用。