November 10, 2016
Rev. Dean Kowalski, The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
“The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem. In the history of the earth hitherto the largest and most stirring appear tame and orderly to their ampler largeness and stir. …Here is not merely a nation but a teeming nation of nations.” –from the preface to ‘Leaves of Grass’ by Walt Whitman, inducted into the American Poets Corner in 1984.
Many people, in the Cathedral’s close community and all across the country, are in a state of uncertainty about America right now. Whitman, who wrote the words excerpted above in 1855, prior to the Civil War, lived through perhaps the greatest tumult our country has faced. Today, we can and must strive to add to the beauty of this nation’s poem, to add our unique timbres to the many-voiced refrain. Picking up this essential thread, we look to the indelible words of Langston Hughes, inducted into the American Poets Corner in 1996: “I, too, sing America.”
As Whitman continued in his preface, “A great poem is for ages and ages in common, and for all degrees and complexions, and all departments and sects, and for a woman as much as a man and a man as much as a woman. A great poem is no finish to a man or woman but rather a beginning.” Let our Union be the same!