03/01/2012 10:08 am ET Updated May 01, 2012

Still I Rise

On Sunday, in connection with the Academy Awards, the staff sent out an email identifying some of our accomplishments this past year:

(1) Explaining the Occupy Wall Street movement to a national audience on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, and earning the first standing ovation for a guest in the show's 10-year history.

(2)Seeing that clip become the second-most-watched news video in the world during the following week, the third-most-viewed fact-check on Politifact during all of 2011, and then a popular song.

(3)Pointing out on Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC the inconvenient truth that America has the fifth most unequal distribution of wealth in the world, a statement that became Politifact’s most viewed fact-check of 2011.

(4) Documenting what the Bush tax breaks for the rich are worth each year for Rush Limbaugh ($2,689,135), Glenn Beck ($1,512,352), Sean Hannity ($1,006,352), Bill O’Reilly ($914,352), Sarah Palin ($638,352), Newt Gingrich ($247,352) and George W. Bush himself ($187,552).

(5) Collecting more than 100,000 signatures on a petition to oppose any and all cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits, and then personally delivering that petition to the White House staff.

What the staff graciously didn’t mention, of course, is that all of this happened after I lost the 2010 election.   Which helped to confirm a view that I’ve always had:  win or lose, there is always something useful to do.

If the staff’s list represents the screenplay for the year that we had, then I think that Maya Angelou’s beautiful poem “Still I Rise” was the score.  Here is an excerpt:

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I'll rise. . . .

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops.

Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don't you take it awful hard

'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines

Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I'll rise. . . .

Out of the huts of history's shame

I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain

I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.


Alan Grayson