for an Inauguration
M. Frances Erler
Every four years, we swear a president into office. About half the time, it’s a new one, not the
one who served the previous term. People
tend to talk about how our system of democracy works, as each transition
not going to comment on this year’s transition, though. My thoughts are being drawn to an inauguration that took place 60 years ago. Can it really be that long?
Recently, I came across an old paperback of
Robert Frost’s poems and noticed in the back of the book, the poem Frost wrote
for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy in January 1961.
eight years old, and in third grade then.
I remember that our teacher brought a black-and-white TV to school, so
we could watch it. Technology was not a
classroom fixture back then. In my
mind’s eye I can see the gray-headed Frost reading his poem in the snow and
cold wind. Then the wind blew his papers
out of his hand. But he continued from
Too young to have understood any of the poem back
then, I was fascinated to read it with my adult eyes this past week. In one place he says:
was the book of profile tales declaring
the emboldened politicians daring
break with followers when in the wrong,
healthy independence of the throng,
democratic form of right divine
rule first answerable to high design.”
later I read Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, and now I understand what
Frost was saying—that we as citizens and politicians in a democracy need to
remember we are still answerable to a higher power, a moral compass, if you
will. Our personal needs are not the
measure of all things. There is a
greater good. Frost concludes his poem
with these words:
in our beliefs without dismay,
any game the nations want to play.
golden age of poetry and power
which this noonday’s the beginning hour.”
many had high hopes for the presidency of JFK, a new era, maybe even a “golden
age” as Frost intoned. But Robert Frost
died in the winter of 1963, and JFK was
assassinated the following November.
Now I think I envy Frost because he didn’t have to live to see the dream
one of those ironies of life, an eleven-year-old paperboy from Gary, Indiana
was at that 1961 inauguration. He and
several others had won the trip by selling subscriptions to the Gary
Post-Tribune. That boy would become
my husband a mere fourteen years later.