Robert Frost, John F. Kennedy, and the Purpose of Poetry in a Democracy

February 16th,2023 | 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Professor/Instructor/Speaker: Robert Bernhard Hass, Ph.D.

Robert Frost held a special place in President Kennedy's intellectual pantheon. He accepted Kennedy's commission to compose the nation's first, and well received inaugural poem, "Dedication". His remarks after the Cuban Missile Crisis, that America is too liberal to fight communism, were not well received. Regardless, Kennedy held the groundbreaking ceremony for the Robert Frost Library in 1963 reminding us that the poet in a free society is the last champion of the individual mind. Using this inaugural case as an occasion to discuss the poet's role in a democratic society, Dr. Hass argues that Kennedy's description of the poet as lone dissenter who has the courage to challenge imperial power is an excellent role model for the artist in our own age of authoritarian peril.

Robert Bernhard Hass, Ph.D.

Dr. Robert Hass is the author of Going by Contraries: Robert Frost's Conflict with Science (Virginia 2002), which was selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Title in 2004, and a poetry collection, Counting Thunder (David Robert Books 2008).  He has won an Academy of American Poets Prize, an AWP Intro Journals Award, and a creative writing fellowship to Bread Loaf.  He is currently Professor of English at PennWest Edinboro University, where he teaches courses in American Literature, Classical literature, and Shakespeare.