Sunday, January 18, 2009

Poetic Inaugurations

I was shocked today to learn that only 4 poets have ever delivered a poem at a Presidential inauguration. Obama will be our 44th President.

Mathematically, that's one poem for every eleven presidents.

Intellectually, that's a sad statement coming from what is touted as the most powerful country on Earth.

Robert Frost recited at John Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. I was only six years old. Sadly, what I remember most of JFK's administration was two years later, watching his funeral on television, seeing "John John" salute his father's casket as it passed, and little Caroline standing steadfast by her mother.

Maya Angelou recited "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton's first inauguration in 1993. I left work for lunch that day to find a restaurant with a television. I watched Maya's graceful delivery of words so stunningly powerful.

Miller Williams spoke at Bill Clinton's second inauguration, 1997. Can't say I remember his poem or his face for that matter. Sorry, Miller!

Elizabeth Alexander will deliver her poem on Tuesday, January 20, 2009. I know her words will be thoughtful, powerful, inspirational.

As she recites, I will again be glued to the screen, remembering Maya's urging to her new President in 1993:

"Lift up your eyes
Upon this day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream."

Hallelujah to the promise of another great President.

Welcome, President Obama. Bless you.

1 comment:

eb said...

Yes, Maya Angelou is awesome. I also remember "On the Pulse of Morning". But, I didn't realize that only 4 poets have done this. I thought it always was a part of the inauguration.

It's not surprising all of them are Democrats considering the abysmal track record the GOP has with the arts.