More on the Inauguration of Barack Obama and the Arts

I am still so amazed that we were able to elect a president who is not only supportive but also appreciative of the arts. During the We are One pre inaugural program/concert Ashley Judd and Forest Whitaker said these words:

"This is a day when artists from around our country celebrate history and our future. President Kennedy spoke of the role of the artist at Amherst College in 1963. “I see little of more importance to the future of country and civilization than the full recognition of the place of the artist. If artists can nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him”

Our great novelist, William Faulkner, when accepting the Nobel Prize, spoke of the artist too. “It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

It is still so amazing to me that Barack Obama is the President of the United States.

After the swearing in I heard Elizabeth Alexander recite her poem, "Praise Song for the Day." I had trouble focusing on it as I was worried about making my way out of the mall to catch a plane back to Chicago. I have since read it online and think it is amazing, especially the line, "What if the mightiest word is love? "

Here is the transcript of the inaugural poem provided by Graywolf Press in its entirely:

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.

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.