Revoking Blagojevich’s Poetic License?

I have to say that I admire Rod Blagojevich’s steadfastness as a patron of the arts. His deft use of poetry in all things political is a shining example of how a strong liberal arts education can serve one well in positions of responsibility and leadership.


Following his impeachment this week by the Illinois House of Representatives (114-1), Governor  Blagojevich concluded his near-messianic final press conference with another flash of poetic insight. (Last year he recited the opening lines of “If” by that manly Colonialist curmudgeon Rudyard Kipling, who also, by way of reminder wrote “The White Man’s Burden,” which Blagojevich did not even need to recite aloud.) Blagojevich ended his stint this week as Illinois governor with lines from Alfred Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” concluding:

And though we are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Comparing himself to the epic hero Ulysses is not out of character for the governor. (In fact, he had is own Greek chorus standing at his side.) And attempting to sell a senate seat, shaking down children’s hospitals, gagging a newspaper’s editorial board must indeed have felt like waging a war against the gods of fate. It makes sense that former Gov. Blagojevich concluded with the end of Tennyson’s poem. The beginning of it might have cut a little too close to home:

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an agèd wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I like Jon Stewart’s idea of a Senior Poetry Advisor. I think President Obama should appoint one. There’s definitely a poem out there for every political occasion and no one wants to make a poetical faux paux on their first–or last–day of political office.

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