A photograph of my daughter and her friend is on a Good Citizen poster.

What the heck does that mean, she asks? Who’s a good citizen?

I drag up my standard answers: that history matters, that good fortune doesn’t equate with good character, that our actions affect others, whether we see — or want to see — this or not.

Later, I realize I should add this in: read and write poetry.

Poems build our capacity for imaginative thinking, create a tolerance for ambiguity, and foster an appreciation for the role of the unknown in human life. From such compact structures of language, from so few poems, so much can be reinforced that is currently at risk in our culture.

— Tony Hoagland, Twenty Poems That Could Save America



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