Elizabeth Alexander and Stephen Colbert
Kate Moos, Managing Producer
I loved the inaugural poem Elizabeth Alexander read earlier this week — with its quiet, understated beginning, and how it wound up to this:
Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.
Still, I was a tad surprised to find her on The Colbert Report last night, where she showed she can hold her own with the master satirist, who’s inquiry into the nature of metaphor, by the way, becomes just slightly infected by double entendre that might offend some sensibilities.
The inaugural poem itself is going to be issued as a chapbook by her publisher Graywolf Press — a marvelous literary publisher located in, of all places, St. Paul, Minnesota where we work.
Joseph Lowery’s Benediction for Barack Obama’s Inauguration
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
As I was listening to Dr. Lowery’s benediction, I couldn’t help tweeting about how smitten I was with his understated delivery. Rather than placing a surging emphasis on each word, he expressed a quiet dignity with a wry smile and a confident pause. There’s something to be learned by his choice of opening words from the historic anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” his use of humor and, perhaps more importantly, his subtle call-and-response that cleaved people to one another as fellow humans rather than distant observers.
scoured the scoured the Web looking for a transcript and finally found one by the Federal News Service to complement the video of his speech:
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand — true to thee, O God, and true to our native land.
We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we’ve shared this day. We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and, indeed, the global fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations. Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.
For we know that, Lord, you’re able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.
We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.
And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.
And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.
Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little, angelic Sasha and Malia.
We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.
Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around — (laughter) — when yellow will be mellow — (laughter) — when the red man can get ahead, man — (laughter) — and when white will embrace what is right.
Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.
REV. LOWERY: Say amen —
REV. LOWERY: — and amen.
AUDIENCE: Amen! (Cheers, applause.)
What did you think? What did you think of Rev. Warren’s words? Let’s discuss.
A Historic Bible for a Historic Moment
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
With all of our recent talk of ancient manuscripts, there’s another (not quite so ancient) book in the news today: Barack Obama has chosen to be sworn in on the Lincoln Inaugural Bible. Read a bit more on the Bible’s history in this short interview with Library of Congress’ Clark Evans.
(photo: Michaela McNichol/The Library of Congress)