Today Is A New Day

A poem, an invitation, and a call—from the U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera to the Santa Clara Class of 2017

Today Is A New Day
Illustration by Kyle Hilton
“Let’s give a warm, spiritual, heartfelt applause for las familias, the families of our graduates,” he said. He read the poem with moments of call and response, because it is important that we raise our voices in gratitude and praise and to speak up for those who can’t. The first Latino poet named U.S. poet laureate, Herrera is also a performance artist and an activist on behalf of migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth. He first visited the Mission Campus when he was in middle school in 1961, and he counts as one of his early mentors and good friends Professor Emeritus Francisco Jiménez ’66, who presented him with an honorary degree on behalf of SCU. The languages in the last line are Spanish and English and Nahuatl. The meaning is the same.


            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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