A Timeless Inauguration Poem
Reading a favorite poem provides a good start to the day. Lately I’ve returned to tried and true soul food, savoring Mary Oliver’s “Roses, Late Summer” one morning, Billy Collins’s “The Lanyard” the next. Another treasured poem snapped to my attention in the midst of a crowd at the Women’s March in Olympia, WA. It’s not too late to reprise this masterpiece for the 2017 inauguration.
My marching cousin Maria photographed a poster displaying this statement attributed to Maya Angelou: “Hate has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.” These simple, true words are so welcome right now. I was transported to the spot in a community college hallway where I stood in 1993, mesmerized by Dr. Angelou’s inaugural poem “On the Pulse of Morning.” Its beauty and hope with its stirring challenges and reminders—her poem would find its way into my classes evermore.
In her riveting voice, Angelou’s cadence captures this promise: “History, despite its wrenching pain / Cannot be unlived, but if faced / With courage, need not be lived again.” There we have it—the powerful motivation of the massive peaceful protests that inspired our country on January 21 and reverberated worldwide. “On the Pulse of Morning” once again serves as a summons to action, each of us newly wise to what can’t be undone but can be corrected.
There’s no substitute for seeing and hearing Maya Angelou recite “On the Pulse of Morning” for one inauguration, realizing that it’s suitable for any and all of them, a poem that will stand the test of time.
As Dr. Angelou intones, “simply, very simply, Good Morning.”