Elizabeth Alexander Reads ‘The Elders’

Elizabeth Alexander captures the Obama moment.
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Elizabeth Alexander: It’s an unpublished poem but just kind of coming out of the election season and this moment of change.

One of the things that I think was really, really interesting in the campaign is how Obama did not, in the early stages, of the campaign have widespread African-American support to the extent, I believe 96% of African-Americans voted for him which,. 96% of any group of people don’t agree on anything, 96% of Black people have never agreed on anything before although actually Black people did vote Lyndon Johnson in about those same numbers, which I think is rather interesting.

So that journey within Black communities to sort of say, “Who is this new person and more importantly, what is this new moment?” And what can we hope for and dream for, I found very, very interesting.

So this is a poem that is called the “The Elders” that emerged from the campaign.

 

“The Elders”

Watch him glitter, watch him gleam.

Shook his [unroughed] hands with their cotton-scarred hands.

Cut their eyes at him, observed the ease with which he smiled.

Ask finally, what is love and who are the people

And how must we love them and what do we need?

What is now?

Look at the lines in the corner of young blood’s eyes,

Lined unlike our hands and perhaps this is not gleam

But illumination, not merely his but ours.

 

That’s “The Elders.”