Steve J. Moore

Archive for the ‘World Events’ Category

A Poetic Inauguration

In poetry, Radio, TV, World Events, Writing on January 20, 2009 at 9:48 am

Because I love poetry, because I love politics, because I am too lazy busy to write anything else, I am posting a copy of the inaugural poem that Robert Frost read for John F. Kennedy on this very day in 1961.

Barack Obama has chosen Yale poet and scholar Elizabeth Alexander to pen the fourth presidential inauguration poem for him. She was a Pulitzer finalist in 2005 and has written several volumes of poetry.

 This first poem, Dedication (pictured below), was written in commemoration of John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inauguration, but due to 87 year old eyes, Frost could not read the type. Instead of the poem below, he read The Gift Outright (further below) from memory.

 

frost

 

Dedication

 

Summoning artists to participate

In the august occasions of the state

Seems something artists ought to celebrate.

Today is for my cause a day of days.

And his be poetry’s old-fashioned praise

Who was the first to think of such a thing.

This verse that in acknowledgment I bring

Goes back to the beginning of the end

Of what had been for centuries the trend;

A turning point in modern history.

Colonial had been the thing to be

As long as the great issue was to see

What country’d be the one to dominate

By character, by tongue, by native trait,

The new world Christopher Columbus found.

The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed

And counted out. Heroic deeds were done.

Elizabeth the First and England won.

Now came on a new order of the ages

That in the Latin of our founding sages

(Is it not written on the dollar bill

We carry in our purse and pocket still?)

God nodded his approval of as good.

So much those heroes knew and understood,

I mean the great four, Washington,

John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison

So much they saw as consecrated seers

They must have seen ahead what not appears,

They would bring empires down about our ears

And by the example of our Declaration

Make everybody want to be a nation.

And this is no aristocratic joke

At the expense of negligible folk.

We see how seriously the races swarm

In their attempts at sovereignty and form.

They are our wards we think to some extent

For the time being and with their consent,

To teach them how Democracy is meant.

“New order of the ages” did they say?

If it looks none too orderly today,

‘Tis a confusion it was ours to start

So in it have to take courageous part.

No one of honest feeling would approve

A ruler who pretended not to love

A turbulence he had the better of.

Everyone knows the glory of the twain

Who gave America the aeroplane

To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane.

Some poor fool has been saying in his heart

Glory is out of date in life and art.

Our venture in revolution and outlawry

Has justified itself in freedom’s story

Right down to now in glory upon glory.

Come fresh from an election like the last,

The greatest vote a people ever cast,

So close yet sure to be abided by,

It is no miracle our mood is high.

Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs

Better than all the stalemate an’s and ifs.

There was the book of profile tales declaring

For the emboldened politicians daring

To break with followers when in the wrong,

A healthy independence of the throng,

A democratic form of right divine

To rule first answerable to high design.

There is a call to life a little sterner,

And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.

Less criticism of the field and court

And more preoccupation with the sport.

It makes the prophet in us all presage

The glory of a next Augustan age

Of a power leading from its strength and pride,

Of young ambition eager to be tried,

Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,

In any game the nations want to play.

A golden age of poetry and power

Of which this noonday’s the beginning hour.

 

 

gift-outright-frost

The Gift Outright

 

Poem recited instead by Robert Frost at the

1961 Inauguration

  

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,

But we were England’s, Still colonials,

Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,

Possessed by what we now no more possessed.

Something we were withholding from our land of living,

And forthwith found salvation in surrender.

Such as we were we gave ourselves outright

(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)

To the land vaguely; realizing westward,

But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,

Such as she was, such as she would become.

 

As a gem for those of you who at least scrolled to the bottom of this post (not everyone reads poetry carefully, I know) I stumbled upon two poems that Obama, himself, had published in an Occidental College journal years ago. Read them for yourself here.

You Had Me at, “Hello”

In World Events on September 4, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Since I’m student teaching this semester, I find that impressions are made quickly on people in high school halls classrooms. You encounter hundreds of people across seven or eight hours, giving glances, nods, and greetings, but how many people do you actually acknowledge?

I usually end up listening to NPR at some point every day, if not reading it online, and one of my favorite segments is “This I Believe.” On August 14, 2008 Howard White contributed a piece called “The Power of Hello,” which opened with this statement:

I work at a company where there are about a gazillion employees. I can’t say that I know them all by name, but I know my fair share of them. I think that almost all of them know me. I’d say that’s the reason I’ve been able to go wherever it is I’ve made it to in this world. It’s all based on one simple principle: I believe every single person deserves to be acknowledged, however small or simple the greeting. 

I promise to leave my connections of this post to Jerry Maguire at this picture (and the title quote), but this picture sums up what I’m trying to get at. People need to make deep meaningful connections with other people. Now, you can’t expect to yield life-long friendships from every person that you meet (but what a great goal 😉 also, I’m never sure what to do with parenthetical emoticons… besides comment after them), but I’ve found that saying hello to as many people as possible can have a profound cumulative effect. It may not be that day or that week, but when you look a person in the eyes, make contact, and say “Hi Kristin” you make a very personal connection, if only briefly, that says, ” I chose to give you a moment of my time because you are here.”

This is something that White expresses as a core human belief of his; it was something his mother taught him at ten years of age that stuck with him throughout life.

I believe that every person deserves to feel someone acknowledge their presence, no matter how humble they may be or even how important.

What a great parent. Sure, taking your kids to dance, soccer, and music lessons is a great way to build character, but how often do you get to really change the way another person operates day-to-day? Saying hello may seem microscopic in a world where human rights, political correctness, and privacy are broadcasted as major concerns; but, small things add up. Just like “keeping the change” can build a modest percentage onto a savings account (no matter how pithy the bank’s interest rate), making a deposit in other peoples’ days can compound all of our social interest.

Howard White’s NPR piece can be found here

China’s Clarion Call

In World Events, Writing on August 13, 2008 at 1:12 pm

I got a little bit of flack from people for my unabashed hope for the Olympic Games in Beijing. New controversies seem to be uncovered every few hours with regards to judging, age restrictions in events, the opening ceremony displays, and let’s not forget human rights on the continent.

I just wanted to take a few lines to express what I was trying to focus on. I understand that there are many problems with the Chinese government’s actions in the past and certainly some that continue today. They are rigorous about control, I think that is apparent. In a country that promised uncensored internet access during the games, they have fallen short by a lot for both their own citizens as well as visiting journalists and spectators.

People have pointed out other issues to me as well to mention: genocide in Darfur, the war in Iraq, Iranian nuclear ambitions, and the Georgian conflicts with Russia. These events are all tragically being reported on (if at all) in the shadow of the Games.

I suppose I expected that readers here are aware of those conflicts and issues of global importance in general. I really wanted to sound a call to people to find the light in dark times, to search out specs of good intention in the grimy clouds of controversy surrounding Beijing. We know that China has a lot of work to do before they can be considered a truly modern nation in terms of their governance and diplomacy.

However, why would they continue along such a path when they are allowed no verbal praise for good deeds? Should we not inspire a nation to strive for a positive global image? Certainly no one thinks that the US, Great Britain, or any other major world power has it all figured out. As long as progress is made continually, I urge continued praise for the best and criticism of the worst of China’s efforts.

No, I don’t want to encourage countries to put walls up hiding their impoverished, nor to neglect children who are not cute or talented enough to represent their country. I truly hope that such actions are exposed as wrongful and wiped from the list of acceptable choices by a country. That cannot go unsaid. Voices of dissent should not be silenced by any government if they seek a genuine resolution peacefully.

My great hope for these Games is that they are remembered events that brought people together, and even in the face of many conflicts, inspired change. Watch the events. Watch the athletes cheer one another on, give hugs, look into each others’ eyes and give respect in winning, losing, or whatever, and look into your own life to find a way to do the same in some small way.

Maybe China’s global image is like its tiny singer. The facade will be stripped away during these weeks, leaving the less polished face of a nation in deep desire for change to emerge and sound its own voice from within. I hope I’m not alone in my optimistic awareness, because more often I find that such attitudes are in shorter supply than oil, corn, or other valuable natural resources.

Olympics Take Flight in China

In TV, World Events on August 11, 2008 at 2:55 pm

In a world where China is working hard to change its image abroad, I found myself watching the opening ceremonies of the 29th Olympiad with both great expectations and high hopes for the spectacle. Chinese master cinematographer and film director Zhang Yimou’s vision was to be realized before 91,000 onlookers from inside the place lovingly called “the Bird’s Nest.”

In a world where I often spend my time (here in the blogosphere) clicking through dissident news tags about human rights, protests,  politics, and rather raw stories in general, I find myself struggling to push the negative out of my mind and replace it with positive. I live my life trying not to hide from negative events, but to educate myself about and accept them. However, I firmly believe in messages of hope as being important. China is presented with a truly unique opportunity this month to evoke the spirit of friendly competition in the world’s nations. From this global stage, the world’s people should be able to set aside struggles and differences momentarily to remind themselves of our One World, our One Dream.

Okay, so perhaps I’m a bit of a Pollyanna when it comes to the state of the world. But, who, I ask you, could resist being in complete awe after seeing the opening ceremonies? How could anyone not sense the yearning of our world to come together and achieve something larger? This is what I believe Yimou was striving for in his presentation. He is a Chinese artist who expresses his country’s values and history with what I think is a global awareness in his films and this event lives up to that standard. These Games are perhaps only recreation but such a gathering of nations should not be overlooked in the state of world affairs as such.

There’s something that wells up inside of me when I see smiles of genuine excitement roused between citizens and athletes of hundreds of diverse and separated nations. The opening ceremonies were filled with smiles of this proportion. It made me feel like there was something for the world to share in together. What does it matter if we are imperfect, separated, and even on different paths? We can share in the celebration of our humanity, we can share in one thing together:

Hope.

No, I’m not talking about an American presidential campaign, but rather the state of a world that decides to put aside struggles, inequity, and misunderstandings to engage in aquatic, gymnastic, and ping pong diplomacy. The opening ceremonies and early games saw the likes of Hu Jintao, Nicholas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin and the Bush family conversing in congenial fashion while the nations paraded across a giant canvas together, each for the pride of their home. Perhaps only posturing, but these do leaders play an important role in doing so, allowing for the athletes to display how global citizens should treat one another.

Even if the acts on high wires and the bursting explosions in the sky are only facade, I still find myself weighing in on their significance. What does it say about China, struggling with pollution, poverty, and population control, that they go so far out of their way to make the world feel welcome to share in this celebration? Even if there are cracks beneath the surface, I believe this time should be taken to celebrate what we would like our world to be; one in harmony.

More to come after the games end.

Au Reviour, a teut a l’heure

Until next time