• Poetry Cleanses JFK.001

    Poetry and Power-JFK, Frost, You

    John F. Kennedy was born on May 29th. Remembering JFK and his ability to lead with poetry and power.

    For his inauguration, JFK asked Robert Frost (86 years old at the time) to read “The Gift Outright”. Frost became so excited about the celebration of JFK’s slim victory over Nixon and the dawning of the dream that included the arts as an essential part of patriotism and democracy, Frost wrote “Dedication” just two days prior to the ceremony. And then was unable to clearly see the words on the bright sunny snow reflecting winter day, causing him to revert back to “The Gift Outright” recited from memory.

    As leaders and poets (and we are all both), let us begin again today in “Dedication”

    A golden age of poetry and power
    Of which this noonday’s the beginning hour

    What we believe:

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    Dedication – Retitled: For John F. Kennedy His Inauguration – Robert Frost

    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 acknowledgement 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.