Monday, November 18, 2013

Of Poets and Presidents

My father was not a fan of Jack's politics.

Dad, a Goldwater republican,  and JFK a democrat. Dad loved a battle of wits and the raising of voices in discussing politics. (What I'm saying is there was a good amount of yelling). He broke all the rules about appropriate topics at dinner parties, much to my mom's chagrin.

I'm about to follow suit. Forgive me in advance.

The 60's left wingers were benign compared to today's democrats. My father would be, not just turning, but agitating like a washer in full spin mode in his grave at the democratic politics of today!    
 "*@#! commies," he would call them!

Think of how different the two generations  are!  JFK said,

"ASK NOT what your country can do for you...


Ask not what your country can do for you?

 Our generation is known to deliberately have children to get DCF benefits, father far removed. All we do is ask is what our government can do for us! The government encourages it, I might add. Today's democrats, 50 years later are bent on the country doing nearly everything for the citizen.

Yes, palms open, we ask all the time and this is where we republicans can be real hypocrites, because as much as we say we want small government, we want the college Fafsa grants for our kids' education, yes we do, two faced as we are.

2013 democrats are a far cry from the party platform of Kennedy's day. His democrat looked a lot like today's conservative. And today's conservatives are leaning more and more to the left.

Ask what you can do for your country.

Right! That's what I ask all the time. First thing when I wake up in the morning, I say to myself.,
"What can I do for my country?" Hardly. I am constantly thinking of ways to keep the government's hands out of my self employed piano teacher's pocket (45% tax rate) by hoarding every tax deduction I can, you bet I do.

On the up side, and akin to the republican ideal, I do try to find ways to give something to someone everyday. Even if it's a small donation at the grocery store or my banana bread I baked to a neighbor.  I figure if I'm helping a person in need, that's one less single mom or poor person the government has to provide food stamps for. And that helps the country.

JFK, 50 years ago this week was assassinated. We remember his larger than life contributions.
He was an orator and statesman that inspired hope. Hope that the nation might enjoy peace and grace and beauty like that in the popular 60's musical, Camelot.

His wife helped foster the Camelot  personae. Embodying class and grace, she was a lady who sought to preserve the historicity of the white house, and brought a style and sensibility to its halls no First Lady has since then. I was reminded of this as I thumbed through the book The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, by Caroline Kennedy,  mentioned in the previous post.

Conversation between a great poet lover and a great poet.


A Poet spoke at his inauguration. Not just any lyricist,  but a renowned one, in his latter days.

Robert Frost. Have you read him? A great American poet, he is best known for The Road Not Taken, Mending Wall and Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.

Kennedy invited Frost by telegraph and the poet answered by the same means the following day.


IF YOU CAN BEAR AT YOUR AGE THE HONOR OF BEING MADE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, I OUGHT TO BE ABLE AT MY AGE TO BEAR THE HONOR OF TAKING SOME PART IN YOUR INAUGURATION. I MAY NOT BE EQUAL TO IT BUT I CAN ACCEPT IT FOR MY CAUSE—THE ARTS, POETRY, NOW FOR THE FIRST TIME TAKEN INTO THE AFFAIRS OF STATESMEN.
Kennedy's invitation came to Frost by telegraph and the poet answered by the same means the following day:
IF YOU CAN BEAR AT YOUR AGE THE HONOR OF BEING MADE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, I OUGHT TO BE ABLE AT MY AGE TO BEAR THE HONOR OF TAKING SOME PART IN YOUR INAUGURATION. I MAY NOT BE EQUAL TO IT BUT I CAN ACCEPT IT FOR MY CAUSE—THE ARTS, POETRY, NOW FOR THE FIRST TIME TAKEN INTO THE AFFAIRS OF STATESMEN.
- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20540#sthash.dQVtcjKj.dpuf




I never realized that in 1961, when I was 4 years old, Robert Frost was 87. That such great literary things were transpiring before I learned to read and write myself.


Here's his poem for JFK's inauguration.     

The Gift Outright

By Robert Frost
The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.


What president invites a poet to recite at his inauguration?

A president like Jack Kennedy, married to a First Lady like Jackie, with a passion for things penned.

May verse and rhyme ever compel us to set aside our politics.




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