The Unofficial, Crowd-Sourced Inaugural Poem

Monday, January 21, 2013

Birds fly over the mall in the early morning in front of the Washington Monument before the presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Today, poet Richard Blanco joined the likes of Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, taking a national stage to recite what was the country’s fifth inaugural poem. President John F. Kennedy began the tradition, commissioning Frost’s "The Gift Outright" for his 1961 swearing in. Since then, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have decided to place poetry front and center on the inaugural dais. Here's the poem Richard Blanco read today:

One Today


Here at The Takeaway, we think poetry was built for the digital age, so we cooked up a crowd-sourced poetry project with noted poet Kwame Dawes. Last week, Dawes started our our crowd-sourced inaugural poem project with these lines: Say "nation." In the wake of quarrels, say "hope." 

And you took it from there, sending us hundreds of suggestions for lines to be included in the poem via our websiteFacebookTwitter, text, and phone. Follow the links to see who wrote the line.


A People's Poem for the Inauguration


A People's Poem for the Inauguration

Say "nation." In the wake of quarrels, say "hope."
Be not divisive nor divided.

Say "neighbor." Say, "What can I do?"
Doors open. Together walk through.
In the hurly-burly of the day's governing
remember the freedom of peace.

At the dawn of uncertain tomorrows, say "change."
While darkness floods our spirit, say "light" and shatter
all our scattering shadows.

Dream, "neighbor." In the face of fear, sing, "mercy."
Hear unity from voices that speak. 

Say that freedom, both the blessing and right,
remain the provenance of open minds.
Acknowledge the dreams that birthed a great nation — say "freedom."
Speak it into action and watch our dreams reshape the future.

And heart in hand, for the sake of the young,
of the old,
of all those who
wade thru injustice's tide, say "freedom."

Say and shout and sing! Progress is a storm and our voices the thunder

Say "peace" for the hearts of a nation's people, in times of grief.
Say one, say all. To abandon hope is to further the fall
Say "take my hand" to the downtrodden, the lost.
Sing harmonies that blend in a spectrum of love.

In the dark of failures, say "try"; encourage, persist to light.
Say friend, my hand for your strength, your eyes for my light as we forward together.
Say hope is ours.
Wash away morose pessimism and the failings of the nascent.
Remember our virtue; remember our lofty intent.
In the wake of the struggle, speak, so that together we all may speak courage.

Say "hope," eyes turned not to the gauzy sky
nor to the brassy gates of power
but to the frost-bitten grass beneath our feet.

I need to hear, again, those antiquated words
in this new light.


Special thanks to our contributors: Kwame Dawes, Ryan Christanson, Phoebe Saffold, Cathy Dee, TJ McKay, Andrew Belli, Kevin Linnehan, Darius Williams, Pete Ternes, Mark Fauntleroy, Sami Jenkis, Karin Storm Wood, Francesca Fernandes, Robert Aleman, John Stetson, Susanna King, Mary Slocum, Laura Duerr, Daniel Farias, Dale Dorlin, Brent Newsom, and Joy Jacobson.

Produced by:

Jay Cowit and Mythili Rao

Comments [5]

John Stetson from Austin, TX

Apologize for missing this recording request. Twitter newbie ;-) Privilege to participate. Honor to be chosen. Thx.

Jan. 23 2013 11:29 PM
Mary Slocum from Gaston, Oregon

Thank you for this privledge...We did something very cool and meaningful. I am in awe....

Jan. 22 2013 12:38 PM
Stacy Green from Portland, OR

For me, the most hopeful and significant thing uttered by our newly inaugurated president was finally referencing climate change. Focusing on the economy is laughably short-sighted if we ignore all that supports not only that economy but our literal survival.

Jan. 21 2013 05:28 PM
Cathy Dee from Fort Wayne, IN

Thank you, The Takeaway, for allowing me to be a contributor to this poem! It was not only fun to collaborate...but the poem turned out great. I love the audio version. Great diea!

Jan. 21 2013 10:39 AM
Martha Lorini from NYC

And the people spoke. They raised up their hopeful yearning voices. Brought tears to my eyes.

Thanks for such a brilliant undertaking.

Jan. 21 2013 10:01 AM

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