I want to offer a blessing for Nelson Mandela on his passing. I know that South Africa is saddened for the loss of their great leader tonight, as are many in all parts of the world. This post is also about the loss of a leader.
This post should have been a couple of weeks ago, but I was at the NCTE convention and wasn't able to write it. There is some history of poets being asked to write for presidential inaugurations, but John F. Kennedy was the first one, and it seems that only Democrats have continued the tradition since that time. You can read a brief piece about that history here on About.com. It's wonderful to think that a President of our country would embrace a poem at the start of an administration. As William Carlos Williams said, “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” I am ever hopeful that our leaders will take poetry as part of their sustenance in both the challenging and the celebratory times.
It's been 50 years since President Kennedy’s assassination. I imagine if you are old enough you can well remember where you were, what you were doing. My ‘then’ fiancé and I chose to spend the next days at my grandparents. We talked quietly, played dominoes (my grandfather’s favorite game), watched the tv coverage, and grieved for our President along with our country. My grandparents helped my future husband and I know that we as a country would survive and go on. After all, they had lived through two world wars.
I thought you might enjoy also the piece on Poet.org about Robert Frost and President Kennedy. There are several stories in this, some might surprise you. Here is the article, which includes the poem that Robert Frost read, not the one he had written especially for it, but an old favorite of Kennedy's.
The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
and the rest of the text is here.