Behind the Scenes

Hope Quotes: HECUA staff and friends offer sources of inspiration.

If you find yourself in need of replenishment and fortification this Friday, we’ve got you. HECUA staff and faculty have compiled a list of the quotes, poems, and articles that offer encouragement for the work ahead. In the words of now-former President Obama:

“I’ve seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I’ve seen our future unfolding. All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work — the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.”


From Colleen Bell, HECUA’s Board President: 

Here is something I sometimes share with students when people are feeling discouraged.  Oddly, it’s titled “The Low Road.”
The Low Road
Marge Piercy

What can they do to you?
Whatever they want.

They can set you up, bust you,
they can break your fingers,
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can’t walk, can’t remember.
they can take away your children,
wall up your lover;
they can do anything you can’t stop them doing.

How can you stop them?
Alone you can fight, you can refuse.
You can take whatever revenge you can
But they roll right over you.
But two people fighting back to back
can cut through a mob
a snake-dancing fire
can break a cordon,
termites can bring down a mansion

Two people can keep each other sane
can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.

Three people are a delegation
a cell, a wedge.
With four you can play games
and start a collective.
With six you can rent a whole house
have pie for dinner with no seconds
and make your own music.

Thirteen makes a circle,
a hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity
and your own newsletter;
ten thousand community
and your own papers;
a hundred thousand,
a network of communities;
a million our own world.

It goes one at a time.
It starts when you care to act.
It starts when you do it again
after they say no.
It starts when you say we
and know who you mean;
and each day you mean
one more.

– from “The Moon is Always Female“, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Copyright 1980, by Marge Piercy.


From Erin Walsh, Program Co-Director of Making Media, Making Change:

We shared these essay excerpts with our students at the start of MMMC on Wednesday.

“Now is the time to resist the slightest extension in the boundaries of what is right and just….

Now is the time to refuse the blurring of memory.

Now is the time to talk about what we are actually talking about.

Now is the time to discard that carefulness that too closely resembles a lack of conviction.

Now is the time for the media, on the left and right, to educate and inform. To be nimble and alert, clear-eyed and skeptical, active rather than reactive. To make clear choices about what truly matters…Now is the time to elevate the art of questioning…

Now is the time to counter lies with facts, repeatedly and unflaggingly, while also proclaiming the greater truths: of our equal humanity, of decency, of compassion. Every precious ideal must be reiterated, every obvious argument made, because an ugly idea left unchallenged begins to turn the color of normal. It does not have to be like this.”

– Excerpts from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay in the New Yorker: Now is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About.


From Molly Van Avery, Program Co-Director of Art for Social Change:

One of my all time favorite poems. 

won’t you celebrate with me
Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.


From Sarah Pradt, Director of Programs

I’m thinking about Elizabeth Alexander.

Praise Song for the Day
Elizabeth Alexander

A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

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

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

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

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Praise Song for the Day in print. Bonus: Graywolf press is giving away copies of this poem today, in print. Just email your mailing address to wolves@graywolfpress.org.


Emily Seru, Manager of Internships and Community Partnerships

Adrienne Rich, from “Natural Resources,” in Dream of a Common Language.

“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.”


From Andrew Williams, Executive Director:

Breathe
Lynn Ungar

Breathe, said the wind.
How can I breathe at a time like this,
when the air is full of the smoke
of burning tires, burning lives?
Just breathe, the wind insisted.
Easy for you to say, if the weight of
injustice is not wrapped around your throat,
cutting off all air.
I need you to breathe.
I need you to breathe.
Don’t tell me to be calm
when there are so many reasons
to be angry, so much cause for despair!
I didn’t say to be calm, said the wind,
I said to breathe.
We’re going to need a lot of air
to make this hurricane together.

From Blessing the Bread.


From Kendra Boyle Hoban, Student Services Associate:

I *believe* Emily shared this poem with us at our staff meeting after the election. I love it.

Good Bones
Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.


Laney Ohmans, Marketing and Communications Manager:

Something about this video always makes me feel light and full of possibility. 


Keep checking back – in the days to come, we’ll add to this list. Please also feel free to send us your suggestions. You can email them to lohmans@hecua.org.

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