Obama and Whitman (via Apple) on Getting Our Little Verses Right

February 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

“The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse …”

Today’s inspirational mashup: one of the most powerful people in the world, and the poet of the common man, together intoning on the liberating stance of seeing oneself as a meaningful thread in a much larger text:

President Barack Obama in David Remick’s New Yorker Piece, “Going the Distance: On and Off the Road with Barack Obama”

“One of the things that I’ve learned to appreciate more as President is you are essentially a relay swimmer in a river full of rapids, and that river is history, … You don’t start with a clean slate, and the things you start may not come to full fruition on your timetable. But you can move things forward. And sometimes the things that start small may turn out to be fairly significant … I think we are born into this world and inherit all the grudges and rivalries and hatreds and sins of the past … But we also inherit the beauty and the joy and goodness of our forebears. And we’re on this planet a pretty short time, so that we cannot remake the world entirely during this little stretch that we have. … But I think our decisions matter … And I think America was very lucky that Abraham Lincoln was President when he was President. If he hadn’t been, the course of history would be very different. But I also think that, despite being the greatest President, in my mind, in our history, it took another hundred and fifty years before African-Americans had anything approaching formal equality, much less real equality. I think that doesn’t diminish Lincoln’s achievements, but it acknowledges that at the end of the day we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.”

Walt Whitman, channeled so ably by Robin Williams in Apple’s new iPad Air Commercial, “Your Verse”:

Apple – iPad Air – TV Ad – Your Verse from Apple on Vimeo.

O Me! O Life!

BY WALT WHITMAN

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
                                       Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
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