My day of reflection and rest started with a news headline: Over 8 in 10 Americans believe our nation is sharply split on major issues and over half are dissatisfied with how democracy is working in the US (article link here).
Where do we go from here? With the Presidential Election behind us, we move forward into the unknown. An Inauguration of a New President lays ahead and I pause to think of such an event and its place in America. The goal for any new President is to bring the Country together at his or someday, her Inauguration. A tall, if not impossible task in today’s climate.
I look to recent Inaugurations with my awakened passion for poetry and notice an interesting statistic. There have been only five poems read at a Presidential Inauguration. The first was for President John F. Kennedy who invited Robert Frost to read a poem at his ceremony.
From there we leap many years ahead to President Bill Clinton who invited Maya Angelou to read a poem at his Inauguration. We get a poet for President Clinton’s second Inauguration and then pause once more to President Obama who invited poets to both his inaugurations.
From the time of Kennedy to present day, no Republicans asked a poet to read and no Republican asked America to listen to a poem at an Inauguration.
Each poem read was an original piece of art set for that moment (except for Robert Frost, which is a story to itself). Words designed to inspire and speak truth. Yet, what is that truth today? Will President-Elect Trump ask a poet to speak at his Inauguration? Doubtful, yet that would be very, very good.
So, as we look forward into an uncertain future, I reflect on this day of peace with a look back to Maya Angelou and her Inauguration Poem called, On the Pulse of Morning. The video of her reading is below. Here is a sliver of her words and imagery to inspire us and bring us together as a Nation.
We are at a time and place in history
Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.