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Inauguration Poem Was A Winner—Obama Acknowledges Wait Staff

I thought the poem by Elizabeth Alexander that she read after Barack Obama’s Inauguration was a winner.( Here is Ms. Alexander’s web home.) The poem was lofty enough for the occasion without being abstract. (There is nothing wrong with abstract, but this was not the right event for that.)  

The poem addressed the words we use, the relationships we have, the work we do, and our history. These are important subjects that serve as foundations of the beliefs we hold and the public policies we pursue. They are things we don’t always talk about. I don’t know if that is because we think of them as mundane topics. Or if it is because they are subjects we find painful in many respects. (The lyrics to Simple Gifts, which was part of the music at the ceremony, are here in this blog post.)

I also noticed that Mr. Obama acknowledged the wait staff at the Statuary Hall lunch after the Inauguration ceremony was completed. He thanked them in his remarks at the lunch. If the President of the United States can behave in a respectful manner towards these workers, surely we all can behave in a respectful manner towards the people who help us during our day.

Here is the poem—

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ 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.

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 someone 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 thy self.”

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 preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light

January 20, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Politics | , , , , | 4 Comments

22 Observations And Thoughts About The Inauguration Of Barack Obama

Here are 22 observations and thoughts about the upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama—

1. Denied the ease of being in opposition, I feel alone in some ways. Many of the the old arguments and excuses are gone now.

2. Denied the ease of being in opposition, now we have to sink or swim on our own. 

3. It is good so many people are feeling hopeful in hard times.

4. Now we can move further to the left because now we expect more from our leaders.

5. Now we can see if the Democratic Party is really serious about helping people.  

6. Just as Republicans used September 11  to achieve policy objectives, so Democrats will use the current financial crisis.

7. Without the headwind of the far right in power, we must redouble our efforts as individuals to make this a successful political era. Are we as individuals for real or not?

8. I’m glad I took Inauguration Day off work.

9. I am hopeful about Mr. Obama, but he has not yet earned my trust.

10. Mr. Obama talks about leading a movement, but he is a mainstream politician and not the leader of a movement. When Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa, he was no longer the leader of a movement.  If not even Nelson Mandela could lead a movement as President, Barack Obama surely cannot either.  

11. I’m glad the coalition that elected Mr. Obama was multi-ethnic and was geographically centered outside the South. What a welcome change from 2004 and 2000. This 2008 coalition is something I am glad to be a part of.

12. We as individuals are governing in partnership with Mr. Obama and the Democratic Congress. We must be decent and disciplined to make America better and to recover from our recession. Governance is a two-way street between elected leaders and the governed.

13. I hope Mr. Obama mentions how closely linked we as Americans are to the rest of the world in his Inaugural address.

14. I can see why some people see aspects of propaganda in Mr. Obama’s never ending campaign and in the creepy art of some of his campaign posters. 

15. I still resent the teacher who gave me a detention for arriving late to school after attending a Walter Mondale rally in 1984. I hope schools let students watch the inauguration.

16.  I hope Mr. Obama discusses the mix of government action and citizen participation needed to solve our problems. Both things are required in hard times and at all times.

17. I hope Galveston, Texas and other parts of the Texas coast hit by Hurricane Ike get some help from the federal government.  

18. Mr. Obama talks about full inclusion. But the fact is some portion of the country will never accept him as President. And some portion of the country will never accept the role of government in our economy and as a source of the social welfare. Not everyone wants to be included in Mr. Obama’s America. Mostly it is people who can take a hike in any case.

19. My satisfaction at seeing Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney go is greatly tempered by the fact of all the damage they did to the country and the world. The responsibility for the damage rests most with the people who voted for these men.  

20. Mr. Obama likes to paint himself as an insider and an outsider at same time. I think he is much more of an insider. Maybe—just maybe—he has some outsider still left in him. We’ll see.    

21. Mr. Obama’s willingness to deal with people who have previously opposed him, while self-serving, is the right course to follow and an example I could learn from.

22. Good luck to Mr. Obama and good luck to us all.

January 20, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Politics | , , , , , | 2 Comments