|January 20: John F. Kennedy is inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I was all of eight years old when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was sworn into office as our 35th President. The one thing I remember most was that Robert Frost, another New Englander, read a poem - the first ever read at an inauguration. From that day on, Robert Frost was one of my favorite poets.
In an article on the Poets.org site, I learned that Frost, presented the President with a manuscript copy of the poem "Dedication," which he was not able to read at the inauguration due to the glare of the sun. He wrote on it, "'Amended copy. And now let us mend our ways.' He also gave the President the advice: 'Be more Irish than Harvard. Poetry and power is the formula for another Augustan Age. Don't be afraid of power.' At the foot of the typed thank-you letter Kennedy sent, he wrote, 'It's poetry and power all the way!'"
Poetry and Power! What a combination! Those in power, who connect to poetry, cannot forget the suffering of their fellow humans. The words of poets have fueled many an uprising, because they gave voice to the voiceless. Add music to the words and suddenly, as Arlo Guthrie said, you have a movement!
Perhaps it is a movement, because today, another gifted poet, Richard Blanco, read at the inauguration of our 44th President, Barack H. Obama. Unlike Frost, however, he read a poem written specifically for today.
Richard Blanco immigrated as an infant with his family from Cuba. He is a young man, half the age Frost was when he read on the dais of the inauguration in 1961. Like many of the students I teach, he knows first hand the struggles of being an American without the blessings of being born in this great land. Yet, here he was, today, a guest of the President, asked to share his thoughts in poetry at this momentous occasion.
Blanco's poem, "One Today," brought me to tears. Through words, phrases and imagery, he took us through this great country, giving us a bird's eye view of the glory and the pain, the joy and the suffering.
Perhaps, as the scholars look back on today, they will come to see that the words Blanco wrote, and spoke so eloquently, were the harbinger of a new era. An era where we ALL work together - one today, and tomorrow and for a thousand tomorrows.
Our President has "miles to go before (he) sleeps." As he continues on his journey, I pray that the words of another Robert Frost poem will prove prophetic for him,
"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."