Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History in the making

"Rhetoric is a poor substitute for action, and we have trusted only to rhetoric. If we are really to be a great nation, we must not merely talk; we must act big." Theodore Roosevelt

I have to admit, I am not completely won over by the brilliance of his smile or the smoothness of his words. While I will bow to his articulate tongue and will remain open to the hope for change that he encourages, I will not put a ring in my nose and accept him as the new messiah as have some; I will hold tight to my cup full of skepticism (unless he gives me a reason to dump it down the drain). It is with great reservation that I accept a new government controlled by one party. And it is with great reverence that I welcome a new commander in chief at a time when that particular presidential role is being watched with great global interest.

I do see the historical relevance. And I am not numb to the emotion that comes with such a day as this. Regardless of my personal trepidation, I will say that this president seems to have taken his long awaited position with grace and humility. I can only hope that he remains true to his word and that he is successful.

And I tip my hat to the choices of Aretha Franklin and the poet Elizabeth Alexander.

Praise Song for the Day
By Elizabeth Alexander
updated 12:20 p.m. PT, Tues., Jan. 20, 2009

Following is the complete text of "Praise Song for the Day, A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration" as provided by the publisher.

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.
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Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.
Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. A chapbook edition of Praise Song for the Day will be published on February 6, 2009.

(watch it at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28755895/#storyContinued)

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