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Yes We Did – Watch the Inauguration January 21, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Politics, Teaching.
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bracelet1

I woke up at 5 a.m. worried about one of my students, who’s often tardy.  I shouldn’t have bothered. When I arrived at school, he was already in line and eager to let me know he was the first one at school.  I breathed a sign of relief.  So far, so good.

I’d left a note on the classroom door.  Any student who arrived late had to be personally escorted to the restaurant where we were going to watch the inauguration or go to another teacher’s classroom.  The plan was to leave directly from the playground where we line up so as not to miss Obama’s swearing in.  The Start bell rang.  We had exactly 14 minutes to walk to the restaurant if we wanted to see Obama take the presidential oath. 

We speed-walked in a single file line.  Several of my students, giddy with excitement, said they felt like they were in “Make Way for Ducklings” (one of the stories we’ve read) and that I was Mrs. Mallard leading the parade.  We arrived just in time to see Joe Biden sworn in as Vice-President. They piled their backpacks in a corner and found seats.  We had the front room at the restaurant, and my students quickly settled in to watch Barack Obama sworn in and listen to his speech, while they were served orange juice and muffins.

Then out came the real food.  Hot trays with three kinds of eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, and pancakes.  There were beans and meatballs and even baklava.  One of my students who’s African American brought her mother and her grandmother (who was still younger than me!).  They brought me the bracelet in the photo above.  I have a wonderful photo of them  – three generations – watching the inauguration.  In one photo, my student’s grandmother is wiping away tears.  It’s a beautiful image. 

As I looked out over my students, I saw the faces of the future. My students are Asian (Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese), Latino (Mexico and El Salvador), African American, Armenian, Bosnian, Pakistani, and my token white student (I have one every year), who’s excited that he’s learning some phrases in Bosnian.  In short, they are the faces of American – and our country’s future. If my class is any indicator, our country is in good hands.

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1. Deb Estep - January 21, 2009

The criteria I use for buying a greeting card is IF it makes me cry.
I’m totally buying this post. Yeah, I had tears.

Did you hear yourself mentioned in the inaugural poem ?

Here it is…..

Praise song for the day

By Elizabeth Alexander

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light.

Deb – I missed hearing Elizabeth Alexander read this at the inauguration. (My class was en route to the restaurant.) Thank you for sharing the words. ” Praise song for the day” bears repeating every day until the end of time. It’s stunning in its simplicity and speaks from and to the heart. Jan

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2. Bev from England - January 21, 2009

I too had tears in my eyes !!

So glad it went well. Bless u all !

HUGS

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3. Ginger - January 22, 2009

Funny, when teachers were mentioned in that poem, I thought of you, too, Jan. I was hoping you had written something about your field trip to see the Inauguration and you didn’t let me down! Keep up the good work. I mean it.

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