I was absolutely delighted to find that President Obama selected a poet to write and read a poem for his inauguration. I listened intently to Elizabeth Alexander, and while the poem is lovely, I found it somewhat lacking in substance and inspiration. Perhaps this is because my mind kept wandering to the Clinton inaugural poem, written and read so movingly by Maya Angelou.
Her words ring even more true today, so I would like to share my favorite section of the poem:
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes
Upon the 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 a new beginning.
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 upon me,
The Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes,
And into your brother's face,
And say simply
I hope you do not consider this a criticism of Alexander's poem. I am delighted that poetry once again has a place in the inauguration. And I did love her poem. It simply did not tug at my heart strings like "On the Pulse of Morning" has done since I first heard it. And it moves me so much that I wanted to share it with you. Look up the poem and read it in full. It is indeed a wonderful work.