Earlier in November, we asked our readers and listeners to share what about America they are most thankful for.
More than a thousand people from across the country responded, including many teachers who turned the question into a class assignment — shout-out to Ms. Goerke's 8th grade English class in Louisville, Ky.
Turns out, many of you are grateful for libraries, which Jody Ondich of Duluth, Minn., described as "sacred places to share knowledge and creativity."
Some of you replied with words that evoked prayers; others submitted expressions of gratitude that were themselves as lovely as poems.
"It was like the poets came out of the woodwork for this challenge," Kwame Alexander tells Morning Edition host Rachel Martin.
We sent all of the responses to Alexander — a poet, educator and novelist — who wove these voices from across America into a single epic ode:
Thank You, America
The sun rising behind farm houses in the Midwest
The clear mountain rivers in Montana
I hope we have the wisdom to treasure all of it.
A glimmer of dawn
First flickers in Maine
For the mountains.
magnificent weathered beacons of topographical wonder.
Tengo gracias that I can speak my mind
y no hay consecuencias graves when I do so.
I won't lie, I struggled with this question
With all the fighting, hate and violence
it has been difficult to remember to be thankful.
However, when I read stories of people who
stand up and speak out
for justice and truth
I become immensely grateful and proud of America.
Freedom to whisper against kings
My grandmother who carried her green card
in the broken tattoos on her back
I am thankful that other people are still trying to come here.
I am thankful for the vastness of our borders and the beauty of our natural lands.
Sunshine streaming softly
while we sip our morning coffee.
But across the oceans our troops fight
ensuring that we keep our rights,
to give us a land of the free.
For the first responders
I am thankful for America's history, warts and all.
Our past, full of light and dark,
Read the history
of heroes and villains
See our country for what it is.
Free Press and Free speech
to speak out against injustices in our country,
For places to walk safely
places to paddle
arcades of trees
varied, inexpensive food
tools and workplaces
longtime friends who listen
to worship whoever we want,
to say whatever we want,
to go wherever we want.
for the public libraries.
They raise up voices whom others attempt to silence.
My son is transgender and I am grateful for those who treat HER with respect and kindness.
for Cape May; for parties on the Fourth of July; for anarchist coffee shops; for church-run thrift stores; hole-in-the-wall BBQ joints; Lake Michigan; Vinny's Pizzeria in the 90s; beer delivery in a snow storm;
for second, third and fourth chances.
I am thankful that my hybrid existence, hinted by my brown skin and slanted eyes, can make sense in America.
For many spectacular parks in our nation--from the huge and awe-inspiring Grand Canyon to the tiny neighborhood park with the small playground and the pretty benches painted by local artists.
I am grateful that America can change, too.
for the millions who take to the streets,
insist on change,
resist evil, tell their stories,
Wrought through division
Sustained by freedom's hope
I am thankful for America, most of the time.
AMERICA LETS ME CONNECT AND PLAY VIDEOS WITH THE WORLD
AMERICA ALLOWS ME TO PLAY BASKETBALL
AMERICA GIVES ME A GOOD EDUCATION
Thank you, America,
For the mom and pop shops and rest stops.
For the back roads and the beaten paths.
For the love that greets me when I come home.
For the dream to become,
the dream to make better or different,
the dream to inspire,
the dream of something on the other side
of whatever is facing us in the moment
Tori Whitley-Berry and Jacob Conrad produced and edited the audio story.