Second Look

Poem Emphasizes Sacrifice

After a stirring inaugural speech in which President Obama repeatedly called on Americans to assume a greater share of responsibility for their nation's well being, Elizabeth Alexander followed with an inaugural poem along similar themes, invoking the difficult tasks of generations past and the small triumphs of working individuals. "Say it plain, that many have died for this day," she read. "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."