I just finished watching the Inaugural Events on TV. Many things to talk about, but I want to use the words of the Inaugural Poet, Elizabeth Alexander, as a call to writers, and a call to Americans, to face the challenges we face in the world today.
Her poem, Praise Song for the Day, was Whitmanesque in its description of everyday people doing their jobs, but when she came to the Teacher telling the students to take out their pencils and begin, it stirred me. It reflected Obama’s call to action, and I heard it as a writer.
In Canada, I feel a bit outside of history as an American. As if America has gone on without me. It was my choice to leave America and work and live in the Yukon. I don’t regret that choice as much as I seek to know what my role is now. If anything, the Inauguration of Barack Obama called out the American part of me to work hard for freedom and justice. But here I am, in another country, and not so skilled at building bridges or repairing roads or even close enough to move towards changing policies. But I am a writer, an American writer. And there is much you can do with a pencil.
Alexander’s poem reminded me that we are all at the beginning of a test. A fiscal test, an international test, a test of our ideals and the strength of our nation. Wherever we are, we have that test before us–and now is the time to bring out our pencils and begin writing.
On this Inauguration Day, let us all take out our pencils and write the future. Write new policies, new ideas, to “meld imagination with a common purpose” as Pres. Obama said, and change what needs to be changed with a pencil and an eraser. Because with pencils, erasers are standard issue–we make mistakes, but we can correct them. Still, we have to write. Write to inspire. Write to correct. Write to change. To remind. To call out. Envision. Direct. Encourage. Explain. Record. Unite. Obama said to the nations that would oppose America–“We will outlast you.” And writing can outlast a thousand nations, even as it forges them.
Yes, I can build a bridge, repair a road, strengthen infrastructure–even from outside the United States. Writing has no borders.
Writers, go forge. “Take out your pencils. Begin.”