During this world landscape of utter anxiety and uncertainty, I choose to pause. Perhaps this choice is voluntary, perhaps not. Regardless, I think all would benefit from such a pause. In consulting “A Patriot’s Handbook, Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love”, selected and introduced by Caroline Kennedy, in inspiration for this blog, I could have taken many directions. For instance, on May 21, 1944, Judge Learned Hand addressed New Yorkers in Central Park at “I Am an American Day.” He began: “We have gathered here to affirm a faith, a faith in common purpose, a common conviction, a common devotion. Some of us have chosen America as the land of our adoption; the rest come from those who did the same. For this reason, we have some right to consider ourselves a picked group, a group of those who had the courage to break from the past and brave the dangers and the loneliness of a strange land.” In questioning “what is the spirit of liberty”, Judge Hand stated “the spirit of liberty is the sprint which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded.”
Perhaps one can look to the remarks of President George W. Bush on September 20, 2001 in his State of the Union Address. He said “Tonight, no such report is needed. It has already been delivered by the American people.” He then continued to describe the strength of our Union, and the bravery and courage of the American people on that tragic day as well as the days following it. He sought calmness even in face of a continuing threat. He asked Americans to ” uphold the values of America and remember why so many have come here.” He concluded with “But this country will define our times, not be defined by them.” Indeed, these words should resonate for the world as we all do our best to adhere to the guidance of the world leaders who are most capable of offering objective direction of how to overcome this pandemic.
Rather than diving deeper into these seemingly more relevant writings, however, I have selected to share with you a 1923 poem by Robert Frost, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. I wish you all a moment of peace in this very unsettling time.
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.