And here is a link to Langston Hughes' "Let America Be America Again." Or you can hear poet Nikki Giovanni reading the poem last November, a week after the election of President Barack Obama. The poem is about the promise and the failure of America, about the American dream and the waking reality of injustice and inequality, about the continuing struggle of Americans to live up to their founding ideals. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. quoted Hughes' poem in the April 1967 speech in which he declared his opposition to the war in Vietnam. Elizabeth Alexander echoed it again when she said, in her inaugural poem, "Say it plain: that many have died for this day." Here are the words of Langston Hughes:
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!