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This is what you shall do

This is not a poem, but Walt Whitman used poetic language and deep meditative thought it qualifies. He used  language in ways that are politically incorrect today, but provided considerable insight into what it might mean to be a servant-leader and live in the world that way.

I become part of the world and it is embodied in me in such remarkable ways as I learn from the world. I think that is the counsel that this passage provides for me and asks of me.

“This is what you shall do: love the earth and the sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning god, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons with the young and the mother of families, read these leaves in the open air every season in every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body…”


About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

35 responses »

  1. Lead Our Lives

    You are indeed right about the political correctness…and it is unfortunate that this is the case. These words are powerful and for some readers are transcendent of the bickering that would otherwise break out, should it be shared widely today. The words are certainly apropos of the day, yet the meaning is clear if one looks beyond the words to the intention behind them. Lovely.

  2. Love this Ivon, thank you.

  3. wonderful words from Whitman
    who experienced so much horror
    and blood during the civil war.
    clear and tender guidance to live fully
    open-minded and compassionately
    with a heart in the world
    yet undisturbed by it
    aspiring to be of service
    with gratitude and humility.

  4. I love Walt Whitman. Thank you for sharing. His wordcraft was excellent. Hugs, Barbara

  5. Thank you. Enjoyed reading this.

  6. Thank you for sharing Walt Whitman’s words of wisdom for living a good life in our troubled world. I especially liked “… go freely with powerful uneducated persons with the young and the mother of families.”

  7. Walt Whitman… HL=huge like since hugschool… 🙂

  8. No these words would be unpopular today when greed is the ruler of the land.

  9. You put up a good post here but, when I was in College in one of my History classes I was given Walt Whitman as the subject matter of a report I had to write. I really didn’t know anything about him except that he was a writer of some kind and that there is a big toll bridge that bears his name on it from South Philly over into Jersey. I did a lot of homework on this person and there is absolutely nothing good that I know of to say about him. I titled my report “Walt Whitman The Pedifle Poet” and I still feal that same way about that person.

  10. I also taught school. For the most part of my life. If there any stories you wish to use in class for discussion I would be honored if you do so. Who knows, at this late date I still wish to stay in the classroom with my ideas.

  11. I’ve read very little of Walt Whitman, and am now looking forward even more to discovering his poetry.
    Thanks also, Ivon, for visiting my site.


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