June 27, 2014
The Poet's Voice
Maya Angelou died earlier this summer. A remarkable woman, from a childhood experience that left her speechless for several years (which became the basis for her biography, I Know Why the Caged Bird sings), to a widely-read poet whose well-chosen words described most of what we encounter in life—the human condition. I heard her live, once, years ago at Pershing Auditorium. I don’t remember the year, nor the occasion. I remember her voice—deep, rich, compelling, alive—it just drew me in. She writes, and speaks, from the center of her very soul.
A poem I go back to again and again is “Still I Rise,” her words about determination and grit and triumph, over all the history of racism and stereotypes she encounters as a black woman. We’ve talked in the College about the quality of grit, and its effect on student achievement. Many researchers are writing about grit, conducting research on grit, designing programs to help students develop grit. I think those efforts are all important. And I think Maya Angelou’s words give life and breath and substance to the concept, persistence in the face of resistance, “But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
Another favorite is the poem she wrote for the inauguration ceremony for President Clinton, “On the Pulse of the Morning.” It is a tribute to the ancestry of every living creature and every part of the planet, all connected, all affected by the actions of one another. It is an affirmation of the hope with which everyone approaches the possibility of something new, a new day, a fresh start, a chance to begin again, an opportunity to make something better. It’s timeless, and it also speaks to this moment in time. It’s hopeful, “Lift up your hearts. Each new hour holds new chances For a new beginning.”
And, in recognition of the loss that we experience when people we love (she calls them “great souls”) die, she writes about what happens when great trees fall, that there is fear in the forest, and silence. And that when great souls die, our souls shrink, our minds fall away, and we feel cold, and dark. Until, after a time, we are restored, and “Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.”
The poet’s voice captures in words true and spare what I struggle to put in sentences and paragraphs. Her words remind me that I can be, and be better, and in fact my life is richer, because she existed. And in that way, her voice is never stilled.
A Note from an Alum
By now you have most likely received the letter I wrote to Bryan friends, which was mailed in mid-June. My goal with this letter is to keep our friends close—our alums, donors, volunteers, present and former board members, present and former faculty members, parents of students, etc. (If you know someone who should receive this letter, but doesn’t, please let me know; establishing the mailing list has been an effort, which Cindy and Susan have cheerfully and capably undertaken.)
One of the things I like about writing the letter is that it’s an avenue to share such good news about the College—and there’s always good news. I also enjoy responses from readers. I received a note from an alum last week. She wrote that she is a member of the class of 1956, and that she still has an active license, which she plans to renew at least once more. And she’s still working! She concludes, “I’m proud to be a Bryan alum.” We’re proud of her, too.
Update on Medicare Funding
The most recent information from Paul Lee, our lobbyist, is that the bill that would continue Medicare funding for colleges like ours is close to being introduced by Rep. Schock, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and in whose district is a college embedded in a medical center. When I have the information about the bill’s name and number, I’ll be back in touch.
To Think About...
“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” - Maya Angelou
|Marilyn Moore, EdD