I love a good story, and here’s a good story that may be unknown to those who do not consider themselves literary geeks (shout out to my English teacher friends).
On January 20, 1961, Robert Frost (my husband’s answer to any trivia question on poetry) took the stage to read “Dedication” at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration ceremony. Kennedy had invited Frost to be a part of his inauguration ceremony as a means of a thanks for support during the campaign; Kennedy also wanted to be known as cultured and having a poet write a poem for you definitely helps you in that area. America held her breath as these two great men shared not only a stage but also a historic moment. Many watched on television or listened on the radio and still have memories of this event. With the sun beating down in his eyes, Frost struggled to read the poem he had just finished the night before in his hotel room for the inauguration. (Seriously – the night before? There’s hope for some of my students). The 87-year-old Frost squinted and stumbled over the first three lines so badly that Vice-President Johnson offered his top hat for shade, but Frost jokingly refused.
Frost then made the decision to abandon what was clearly not working and go with what he knew. Claiming he did not have to read the poem he wrote for the occasion, he instead recited from memory “The Gift Outright” and thus became the first poet to share a poem at an inauguration. Jackie Kennedy later had “Dedication” in Frost’s handwriting framed and signed the back “For Jack. First thing I had framed to be put in your office.” Since then every Democratic president (but no Republican ones interestingly) have had a poem included in his inauguration.
Don’t miss the lesson in this story. When you are blinded by the sun and forcing something to work that just isn’t working, go with what you know in your heart. And don’t take yourself too seriously. And if you want to appear cultured, have someone like Robert Frost write a poem for you.
And for my political ramblings –
Tomorrow the United States of America will inaugurate her 45th president. The President of the United States is a powerful person, but let’s not forget the People of the United States. We – you and I – are powerful people also because our daily actions – large or small, good or bad – make differences in the lives of those around us. Tomorrow is a good day for us to think about our lives and the role we play in our country.
And if you’re still reading –
Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House: Books is a great article detailing President Obama’s reading habits while he has been in office.
Thank you, Good night, and may God bless America.