A Poetry of Conviction

numbguy0120_H_20090120133844Today, we celebrate both the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the public swearing in of President Obama for his second term on the National Mall.  Perhaps to emphasize how our world has changed since Dr. King’s passionate movement for equality, President Obama has selected a Latino, gay poet, Richard Blanco, to read his original poem at the Inauguration ceremony. In his poem, “America,” Blanco describes the difficulties of assimilating his family into a new world:

A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain’s majesty,
“one if by land, two if by sea,”
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the “masses yearning to be free,”
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.

On the subject of conviction in one’s beliefs, I love Robert Frost’s poem “Choose Something Like a Star.” The final four lines seem especially applicable, with so many opposing forces within the same government:

So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

And perhaps the most famous lines on following one’s convictions are the final six in Lord Tennyson‘s “Ulysses:

  Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

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