What a big week last week was! I’ve had Democrats and Republicans alike tell me of their relief that the US has a new administration.
A good friend of mine who works in international development texted me last week and said, “we won’t be able to heal without reconciliation, I’ve seen this so many times in other countries.” She’s right. When I honeymooned in South Africa, I marveled how, only ten years after the end of aparthied, the effects of Nelson Mandela’s truth and reconciliation efforts were so poignant. An ex-prisoner of Robben Island, where many political prisoners including Mandela were detained, gave us a tour of the prison and told us what it was like to be there day to day.
He then told us how during the reconciliation period, he invited his former prison guard to his house for dinner with his family. The strength of charachter and deep forgiveness that had to happen between those two men was inspired by a leader who embodied the same.
Listening to Amanda Gorman recite her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration was a reminder of how words matter, that beauty can heal and we can exist in a tension of shadow and light and make a choice:
I’ve been lucky enough to attend several inauguration ceremonies and early last week as I was planning this letter, I remembered how inspired I was by hearing Maya Angelou (a St. Louis native, by the way!) recite her poem “When the Caged Bird Sings” so had asked my team to research the role the arts had played in other inauguration ceremonies and administrations. Little did I know the power of another poem, completed after the insurrection January 6, that would usher in a new era for our country.
I’m late again with this letter, but hopefully you’ll find what we’ve curated for you juicy and interesting.
Have a great week and ‘talk’ to you Friday.
- You can read in its entirety Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb”, a piece that has gone viral after her reading at the inauguration
- Gorman joins the ranks of illustrious company-- in January of 1961, the poetry reading at the Kennedy inauguration came from Robert Frost, and Maya Angelou read at the Clinton inauguration
- Gwen Stafani and Blake Shelton performed at President Obama’s final state dinner
- This art installation for the inauguration features a traditional South Indian kolam with 1,800 contributions from volunteers
- Click here for a list of the past Poet Laureates, and click here to read some of their most famous works
- This photo gallery from the White House Historical Association shows some significant works of art found in the White House collection, including presidential portraits and pieces chosen by the presidents
- After the state dinner the Kennedys held for ANDRÉ MALRAUX, Minister Of State for Cultural Affairs of France, Malraux offered to loan France’s greatest cultural treasure, the Mona Lisa, to the U.S. Beginning in December of 1962, nearly 2 million Americans viewed the painting at the National Gallery in Washington, DC and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
- Some past American presidents were even artists themselves, including Jimmy Carter and Dwight D. Eisenhower
- The magnificent gardens are another fascinating aspect of White House history, having been the home of grazing goats, sheep, and hundreds of species of plants
Things to Do Around the World
- This interactive graphic shows significant headlines from the past four years
- Check out the National Endowment for the Arts Podcast, which interviews both up-and-coming artists and those who have received awards from the Endowment
- Recommendations of the 22 “books Joe Biden should read to inform his presidency” shed light on writers’ hopes for the next four years (and provide titles worth adding to your to-read list too!)
- Tour the White House from your sofa!
P.S. : Know someone who would like this? Feel free to forward them and they can sign up HERE