On the Pulse of Morning is a poem and speech written by famed Civil Rights leader Dr. Maya Angelou as part of the presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993. The poem is a call to recognize America’s history of slavery and racism, as well as the catastrophic actions contributing to the damage of the climate and the planet.
The poem highlights the ignorance and lack of acknowledgment of America’s past in inciting violence and terror on ethnic and indigenous groups. Angelou names the struggles of the Indigenous Americans, followed by Africans of the slave trade, to the current struggles of African Americans in modern day America. Angelou further calls for more effort to be made to save the planet by choosing alternative and natural sources of energy. Ultimately, the message to not continue making the same mistakes of the past if one want to truly make America great.
Her speech at the inauguration drew critical acclaim and critic Mary Jane Lupton stated that her speech marked a return to the African-American oral tradition of speakers, such as those seen from Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She was also the first Black and woman to read an inaugural poem since such readings were popularized by Robert Frost at the 1961 inauguration of John F. Kennedy.