U.S. Capitol Visitor Center opening ceremony: Rita Dove reading "Lady Freedom"

ladies and gentlemen please welcome professor Rita Doug good morning fifteen years ago I stood in the poetry office of the Library of Congress and looked across the way at the Capitol building I was new to Washington and so what I saw was not only that magnificent building but I did see those self st. tourists that Senator Reid mentioned wandering by and in the parking lot there was a statue a beautiful but a bit dirty statue which was lady freedom that we see the replica behind us here she was due for an overhaul and I thought that that was so appropriate that freedom get an occasional sprucing up that this poem began to happen it so it occurred that later in that year nineteen ninety-three in the fall I first read this poem on the steps of the Capitol building the occasion was the 200th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the capitol and the reinstallation of the state of the statue lady freedom to her place atop the Capitol dome lady freedom among us don't lower your eyes or stare straight ahead to where you think you ought to be going don't mutter oh no not another one get a job fly a kite go bury a bone with her old fashioned sandals with her lead and skirts with her stained cheeks and whiskers and heaped up trinkets she has risen among us in blunt reproach she has fitted her hair under a handmade cap and spruced it up with feathers and stars slung over one shoulder she bares the rainbowed layers of charity and murmurs all of you even the least of you don't cross to the other side of the street don't think another item to fit on a tourists agenda consider her drenched gaze her shining brow she who has brought mercy back into the streets and will not retire politely to the potter's field having assumed the thick skin of this town it's gritted exhaust its Sun scorch and Blair she rests in her weathered plumage big-boned resolute don't think you can ever forget her don't even try she's not going to budge no choice but to grant her space crown her with sky for she is one of the many and she is each of us ladies and gentlemen please welcome

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