Today Is a New Day

Today Is a New Day

By Juan Felipe Herrera

A poem, an invitation, and a call to be this new day—from the U.S. Poet Laureate to the Santa Clara Class of 2017.

Muchas gracias. Thank you so much. Let’s give a big celebration of applause and voice to our new graduates 2017. [applause] Let’s give a warm, spiritual, heartfelt applause for las familias, the families of our graduates.


Thank you so much.

Watch Juan Felipe Herrera deliver the commencement address.

Thank you so much for inviting me, and thank you so much for conferring this degree upon me and these honors. It’s a great blessing. It’s a blessing for my family, for my families, for you, and for all those that walk at the margins and at the center, wanting to do the best they can, the best you can for all the peoples of all colors, of all classes, all views, LGBTQ+, all the people of our planet. I want to say thank you for inspiring me to be the poet, to be the speaker that I’ve come to be. It’s because of you. Muchas gracias.


This piece that I wrote for you—I was trying to figure out how to do it, and I talked with my wife, Margarita, who I also want to thank, who writes all my poems, she wants me to tell you, [laughter] and my brothers-in-law, George and Harold, who are here, and nephew Emilio, and my children, grandchildren, all my family, this is for you, and for, most of all, for any graduates. This is called “Today Is a New Day.”




            is a new day

                        you are that

                                    new day!


Today we leave an epoch behind

a grand moment of leaps wonderings and movement

and step into a new time unforeseen now here


Today you are that new time now visible

now prepared now filled with eagerness and hope

you are that hope that wild born vista of new horizons


Today, este día, change comes to you to your doors to this arena

It is bigger than you and yet you’re at its center

you are the blood of this vast new body of change

Yes, you are


What is it? You may say—what will it contain? Qué es?

De qué está hecho? What road must you choose where will it lead?

You do not know we do not know it has arrived


It comes in the shape of audiences rumbling

with questions of resistance with dreams of freedom

hungry thirsty in search of a thing called Peace in search


of Sisterhood

in search of Brotherhood—longing

                                                                   for humanity


what will you say, what will you say about climate change

what will you say about war upon

war what will you write about unity not just about yourself

or for yourself how many bowls of water will you offer


to those living in fear in fear of deportation

in fear of bullying and bullets in fear of detention

in fear of the forced abandonment of their children



                        will you offer yes



to the ocean and skies what will you say as

you grasp the smoke of bombs the smoke of billions

the wings and fish and fins flashing in razor nets down below


today you are dressed in meaning today you

are surrounded with affirmation—from your parents

family teachers friends and neighbors yes


today is that new day—it is your turn now all yours

to walk far to lose yourself in the harvest of fields to

give seeds of meaning to all to gain knowledge


for all to intensify your kindness for all to carry

a satchel of compassion-action for all to ask and to

ask how can I strengthen my effort to save others


to stop exploitation to end misinformation to

bring down the walls with your heart on fire

and mind expanding with tenderness your words


of love of acceptance of inclusion of all peoples

of all beings of all colors de todos colores of all classes of all genders

the crystalline rainbows of sexual orientation of all


—yes today marks your journey

as individuals as innovators sharing and

working in solar circles for all will you invite the child


to rise up to the stage with you will you call

her to offer something her words at the podium to sing her song to

a new moment in her life—in a sudden light


you will notice the elders you will notice the drivers

and conductors and workers in laundries and hotels

all you meet all teachers and those you call enemies


and the earth crushing

                        toward an attractor galaxy among galaxies

and all the animals tiny now in the earth spinning


you will ask to learn from everyone every element

you will be filled with meaning of all existences

you will carry all treasures you will have all the codes


of everything—and you will notice suffering

what can I do you will say you will stop

again you will listen again you will reach for


a bowl of water a loaf of bread and speak with

the voice of a mother a son a daughter a father

long gone, now grown and love yes love will come


over your face and you will act and you yes

you will stand and you will bring about peace

food change water unity meaning a place


to exist a garden for all

a fountain where light enters in freedom


—Everyone, everyone say, “in freedom!”


All: In freedom.

Juan Felipe Herrera: Everyone say, “In freedom!”

All: In freedom!

Juan Felipe Herrera: Everybody say, “We will bring freedom!”

All: We will bring freedom!

Juan Felipe Herrera: Everyone say, “We will bring libertad!

All: We will bring libertad!

Juan Felipe Herrera:  A music of voices everyone’s voices

and your heart

will be the heart of beauty

Everyone say, “And our heart.”

All: And our heart.

Juan Felipe Herrera: Will be the heart.

All: Will be the heart.

Juan Felipe Herrera: Of beauty.

All: Of beauty.

Juan Felipe Herrera: And our heart will be the heart.

All: And our heart will be the heart.

Juan Felipe Herrera: Of community.

All: Of community

Juan Felipe Herrera: And our heart will be the heart.

All: And our heart will be the heart.

Juan Felipe Herrera: Of sky and earth.

All: Of sky and earth.

Juan Felipe Herrera: And our heart will be the heart.

All: And our heart will be the heart.

Juan Felipe Herrera: Of kindness. 

and your life

will be the life of infinity

you will sing


            is that new day—

                        You are

                                    that new day.


Muchas gracias, thank you. Tlazohcamate huel miac.


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