The American Vision of Lincoln--Nikki Giovanni


President Barack Obama invited poet Nikki Giovanni to join him at the bicentennial celebration of Lincoln's birth held at the capital.  Here is the poem she read on that ocassion.

The American Vision of Abraham Lincoln

Nikki Giovanni

At this moment

Resting in the comfort of the statue
Of the 16th president of the United States
An equally impressive representation
Of his friend and advisor
Frederick Douglass

We come

On this day

Recalling the difficult and divisive war
We are compelled
With a prayer in the name
   Of those captured and enslaved
    Who with heart and mind
     Cleared the wilderness
Raised crops
     Brought forth families
Submitted their souls
      Before a merciful and great God
To acknowledge that The Civil War
Was fought not to free the enslaved
     For they knew they were free
But to free the nation
     From a terrible cancer eating at our hearts

At this moment

In which we are embarrassed
By the Governor of our fifth largest state
     Who appoints a man to the United States Senate
     To which both he and his minion agree:
The Letter of the Law
Is more important than
The Spirit of the Law


When we are dismayed that the accidental
Governor of the Empire State can find
Just one more reason to rain pain
And rejection on a family that has offered only
Grace and graciousness

After two hundred years
When we rejoice that another son
Of the Midwest has offered himself
His wife and his two precious daughters
To show us a better way

We gather

In recognition and understanding
That today is always and forever today
Allowing us to offer this plea
For light
And truth
And Goodness
Forgiving as we are forgiven
Being neither tempted nor intolerant of those who are

We come

At this moment
To renew and refurbish
The American vision
Of Abraham Lincoln

©Nikki Giovanni 2009
12 February 2009