By David Carty– 1/20/09

Once
President Barack Obama had been sworn into office, poet Elizabeth
Alexander put into words what thousands of gatherers felt as the sun
shined over Washington D.C.  It was praise. Alexander’s poem “Praise
Song For The Day” followed up the 44th President’s Inaugural Speech,
saluting an American workforce dogged by economic hardship.

Alexander
penned about those “stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a
uniform…repairing the things in need of repair” as she acknowledged
those at work during the Inaugural ceremony and possibly offering a nod
to Obama who is faced with the task of repairing America’s own faulty
parts.

In
the latter end of her poem, Alexander’s tone spoke about hope and
saluting life’s simple joys. “I know there’s something better down the
road,” she said. “We need to find a place where we are safe. We walk
into that which we cannot yet see.”

“Praise song for struggle,
praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign, the
figuring-it-out at kitchen tables….
In today’s sharp sparkle, this
winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun,” she wrote,
finishing with the same themes of praise and hope. “On the brink, on
the brim, on the cusp, praise song for walking forward in that
light.”

With
those words the 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist became the fourth poet to
speak at a Presidential Inauguration. In 1961, Robert Frost became the
first, speaking at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy – both men died
two years later.

Maya Angelou in 1993 and Miller Williams 1997,
both for President Bill Clinton, were the other two to deliver a poem.
All four came during the Inauguration of Democratic Presidents.