"Good evening. Muy buenas noches. I am happy and honored to bring our most sincere congratulations to the City of Waterbury on the inauguration of his honor, Mayor Neil O’Leary. I bring words of encouragement, support and high expectations from the 7406 students at Naugatuck Valley Community College and our faculty, staff and administration.
We have every reason to expect great things from you because first as a member and now as the Chair of our Regional Advisory Council you have demonstrated exceptional care for the education of our students and produced tangible contributions and collaborations that have strengthened the quality of education and the College’s connections with the public school system and the communities we serve in Waterbury.
I am here because you asked that I read a poem, because you invited education and poetry to be a part of this beautiful event. In recognizing the role that the arts and poetry, in particular, play in the life of democratic societies, you emulate one of your spiritual mentors, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I am happy to read a brief excerpt of a lecture given by President Kennedy in March of 1963 at Amherst College:
Our national strength matters, but the spirit which informs and controls our strength matters just as much…it is hardly an accident that Robert Frost coupled poetry and power, for he saw poetry as the means of saving power from itself. When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.
It is in that spirit, and in looking to a bright future for the City of Waterbury, with a leadership focused on educating our people and keeping at the table an understanding and collaborations which inform and control our strength, that I read a few stanzas from the Robert Frost’s poem, written in celebration of President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration:
Summoning artists to participate
In the august occasions of the state
Seems something artists ought to celebrate.
Today is for my cause a day of days.
And his be poetry’s old fashioned praise
Who was the first to think of such a thing…
It is no miracle our mood is high.
Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs
Better than all the stalemate and’s and if’s
There was the book of profile tales declaring
For the emboldened politicians daring
To break with followers when in the wrong.
A healthy independence of the throng,
A democratic form of right divine
To rule first answerable to high design
There is a call to life a little sterner,
And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.
Less criticism of the field and court
And more preoccupation with the sport.
It makes the prophet in us all presage
The glory of the next Augustan age
Of a power leading from it strength and pride,
Of young ambition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday’s the beginning hour.
Courtesy of St. Lawrence University’s Archives
So here’s to the beginning hour, of a golden age for education, poetry and power for this beautiful city. Congratulations! Enhorabuena!"