Wave of Consciousness, "A Voice of Sanity in a World of Conflict"
Everyone Needs a Friend Like Her
by Natalia J. Garland, M.S.W.
The author and poet, Maya Angelou, is a longtime friend of Senator Hillary Clinton. While other people might use such a relationship to write a tell-all book, exposing or embellishing the morbid secrets of a rich-and-famous personality, Angelou wrote a poem of loyalty and encouragement to Clinton. Perhaps this is because Angelou is a serious writer and not a disgruntled politician, or perhaps because she is the kind of friend we would all like to have: someone who stands by us when we fail, sees our true potential, and gives us hope to go on. Angelou's poem to Clinton begins as follows.
State Package for Hillary Clinton
You may write me down in history
The above lines are actually the first stanza of Angelou's well-known poem, "And Still I Rise," written in 1978. It is now 30 years later and that poem has since become the stuff of 9th-grade literature textbooks. The message, however, is timeless and universal. The poem speaks to the oppressed and maltreated, and to the ability of the human spirit to overcome adversity. Senator Clinton, whether unfairly vilified or rightfully criticized for the tactics and mistakes of her presidential campaign, has lost. Right now, she has much to overcome: politically as well as psychologically.
Back in 1993, when Hillary Clinton became our nation's first lady, Angelou wrote a poem for President Bill Clinton's inauguration. Let's go back and review Angelou's 1993 message, and determine the poem's significance for 2008.
A Rock, A River, A Tree
Angelou deftly summarizes the injustices of history, affirms the relationship among humans, nature, and deity, and offers the American dream to all types of people. Although Angelou would appear to be a firm Democrat, her poem is non-partisan. In 1993 she might have felt that Bill Clinton was the most qualified leader to create the conditions under which more people could obtain basic necessities and reach toward self-fulfillment, but she excludes no one from the pursuit of happiness. There is no hostility toward history, no desire for revenge on the perpetrators of cruelty, and no excuses for not accepting the freedoms for which others dearly paid.
The same poem could have been written for President George W. Bush's inaugurations, and it could be read again at the next inauguration in January, 2009. That's because democracy, the general welfare, and personal happiness require vigilance on the part of the citizenry. There are always new yokes of brutishness to oppress and persecute those who are different or who disagree. For example, some people feel that America has reached the edge of traditional democracy and is entering socialist-democracy (like Venezuela) or sovereign-democracy (like Russia). Will Angelou or the old-school Democrats (like Lieberman) find themselves in the waste and debris? Should Angelou, could she, write another poem to save true Americana from dinosaur-like extinction? Did Angelou's friend, Hillary Clinton, lose her way under the seige of the new gold-seekers?
Where are the new chances and new beginnings for mainstream, integrated, melting-pot Americans? Have the ethno-political groups become so numerous and splintered that America can no longer govern itself under traditional democracy? Some people seem so unable to cope with our nation's problems that they would be willing to submit to elitist authoritarians: just give us food, housing, gasoline, and entertainment, and you leaders can have all the power, riches, and glory. Where are the new Maya Angelou's, T.S. Elliot's, Walt Whitman's, or Emily Dickinson's? Where is the poetic conscience, inspiration, and vision for 2008? Who is the friend of humanity?
Perhaps Americans need to listen to the Rock and take a personal sojourn through history. Let us not seek hiding places from our nation's problems, but instead look out on each new day with hope. (Written 06/09/08)
copyright © 2008 Natalia J. Garland
1.) "Maya Angelou's Poem in Praise of Hillary," by Vanessa
Thorpe, 01/20/08, the Guardian, (U.K.), [WWW document] URL
2.) "Still I Rise," poem by Maya Angelou, accessed from Poets.org, [WWW document] URL www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15623
3.) "Ignaugural Poem," poem by Maya Angelou, accessed from EServer, Iowa State University, [WWW document] URL http://poetry.eserver.org/angelou.html