Praise Song for the Day - Interpretation

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Praise Song For The Day
November 26, 2012

This poem, Praise Song for the Day by Elizabeth Alexander, is one of the most memorable poems that have been recited within the last 20 years. Immediately after President Obama was sworn into office, Elizabeth Alexander recited her poem to the masses that had gathered on that cold winter day in January. The piece is full of symbolism, with the tone being hopeful, inspiring and thankful. The poem begins with a description of daily life which is filled with the daily grind of hard working individuals, often doing the work that drives this great nation of ours…small businesses, blue-collar laborers, honorable professions such as teaching. The possibility of coming together as a people in spite of our differences is expressed in terms of our words (“spiny or smooth…words to consider, reconsider”). From will to words to concrete results (e.g., highways), we interact with each other–past and present. The boundary of a highway may inspire someone today to go further and see what else is possible, keeping hopeful aspirations alive by “see(ing) what’s on the other side. At the same time that we fear the uncertainties of the future (which also divides us), we can envision it in terms of its possibilities (“We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see”). I think she is trying to say that we should also honor the sacrifices of poor, immigrant laborers of the past who made our present reality possible as well as the modern immigrant laborers who continue to build upon the dreams of their ancestors. (“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”) The resolution of conflicts between people has many routes. For families it may be “figuring it out at...
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