Tag: Full text of Elizabeth Alexander’s inaugural poem

The Words of Inauguration Day – Poetry

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The power of words and of music, of culture, of prayer, and of history were felt today. President Obama's speech is available online, but I couldn't find Elizabeth Alexander's poem, or the Benediction Prayer, so here they are, transcribed by me, to the best of my ability!

Only the coolest presidents had poets…

Alexander will be only the fourth poet to read at a presidential swearing in. Robert Frost read for President John F. Kennedy, and Maya Angelou and Miller Williams read at President Clinton's inaugurations.”

(According to http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/20/DD0C14R9NL.DTL&feed=rss.entertainment)

Elizabeth Alexander’s

Praise song for the day

Each day we go about our business and pass each other

Catching each other’s eyes or not,

About to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise.

All about is noise and bramble, thorn and din.

Each one of our ancestors on our tongues.


Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,

Repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum, with cello, boombox, harmonica, voice.


A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky.

A teacher says “take out your pencils, begin”

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed

Words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone

and then others who said "I need to see whats on the other side,"

"I know there’s something better down the road,"

"We need to find a place where we are safe"

We walk into that which we cannot yet see.


Say it plain, that many have died for this day.

Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,

Who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

Picked the cotton and the lettuce,

built brick by brick the glittering edifices

they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle

Praise song for the day

Praise song for every hand-lettered sign

The figuring it out at the kitchen tables

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

Anything can be made.

Any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp.

Praise song for walking forward in that light.