A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

January 17, 2017

Dear Friends,

First may I say, if you didn’t get to read the message we sent out on Martin Luther King Jr Day celebrating his legacy, please do have a look.  It includes a video of our children’s march, which took place on Friday.  It was a breathtaking and hopeful moment in our week.  That march was hands-on education in action!  It was pretty magical!

Second, I will just say that sometimes in order to face the future, we find ourselves searching for things in the past to get us through.  Nostalgia can be a motivator, not simply a comfort, because it moves us. It allows us to feel.  From there we can (maybe) face what’s ahead.

With that premise in mind I have this to share today.  It means just as much now as is did eight years ago this Friday.  Maybe it means a lot more.

A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration
By Elizabeth Alexander

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.


And send it into the world,

Charlie Spencer

Head of School

P.S. All of our Center School children have only known this one president.  And so they have begun with a progressive understanding of what “President” means. That’s huge.  Just think!  They have only known a Black American president!  Praise song for that.

Charlie Spencer, Head of School
Contact Charlie: Email
Phone: 413-773-1700
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