Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Words Inspire Lessons

I've always been a word, rather than numbers person, although I appreciate good hard number facts once in a while. I aced the verbal part of my SAT and tanked on the nonverbal. In college, I squeezed out teaching degrees without having to take a single math class! (A crime in higher education, but yes, it happened.)

BTW, when you skip math in college, you get to opt out of doing budgets when you get a job in the real world, right? SHHH! This is exactly what I'm telling my new boss. ;)

Back to my main point...

Watching the inauguration events yesterday, I was struck by all the beautiful words spoken. Some consider the English language "ugly to the ears" because its rhythm, grammar rules, and vocabulary roots are a hodge podge of irregularity. But, I think that just might be what makes it a thing of beauty. In the words spoken yesterday by poet Elizabeth Alexander, "our patchwork heritage is a strength".

I thought these inaugaural quotes were particularly moving. I'm going to save them for a day when I have more time to contemplate what they really mean from my own experience. So, I thought you might want to share a few with your children/students. No matter your political affiliation, the words themselves will make great topics for critical thinking activities or discussions on character, conflict resolution, politics, or history.

President Obama:

"...we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned."

"...we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

"...willingness to find meaning in something greater than ourselves"

"...bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction."

" and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."

Poet Elizabeth Alexander:

"Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking."

"We encounter each other in words, Words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; Words to consider, reconsider."

"…take no more than you need"

"In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun."

Lowery Benediction:

" for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around...when yellow will be mellow (is this guy really going to keep this rhyme going much longer?--hilarious!) "...when the red man can get ahead, man" (another good one! keep it up!) "...and when white will embrace what is right."

Hey, maybe all these words will even inspire a young writer to write words just as beautiful!

Oh...and sure, these words are strong enough to stand on their own as inspiration for all kinds of writing activities. But, if you're looking for great tools to round out your writing lessons (hands-on materials & graphic organizers), check out these unique things that could lend a hand:

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