Written by Jake Lloyd
"I'm in awe."
Those words were spoken by Briana Scurry, someone who isn't easily impressed. After all, the legendary U.S. Women's National Team goalkeeper won two Olympic gold medals and the 1999 World Cup during an incredibly decorated soccer career.
So when Scurry — the newly anointed spokesperson for America SCORES — took to the stage about midway through the 8th Annual America SCORES National Poetry SLAM! at the New York Stock Exchange Monday night, she meant those three words — and she was far from alone.
We were all inspired.
During an action-packed hour, 26 poets representing 13 America SCORES cities far and wide took the stage and wowed the audience with an exhibition of self-expression like I've never seen before — and that's saying something, considering I've been at five DC SCORES Poetry Slam! events.
As many of the hundreds of guests remarked afterward, from the opening group poem — put together during just two days of practicing! — to Xavier C.'s culminating and incredibly powerful school closing poem, there was no drop-off between performances. But they were also incredibly varied, keeping audience members on the edge of their seats throughout the night. Some poems were in Spanish; others were pure comedy; more than anything, we got to know the amazing students through their self-expression.
Awe. We were all in awe.
And all convinced of the impact these students — just a handful of the 8,000 impacted each year through America SCORES — will make on the world.
Once the event had concluded and the students received a long standing ovation from the likes of Scurry, former soccer star and current broadcaster Shep Messing, members of the New York Red Bulls, and hundreds of others, guests wouldn't let the evening's stars leave just yet.
We all wanted their autographs. The 26 elementary and middle school youth walked around in their America SCORES T-shirts — with their cities on the back — signing guest's programs and having us ink words of congratulations on their red shirts. It was the perfect capper to an incredible night of inspiration.
Except, for one student, it wasn't over...
Xavier — showing no signs of fatigue from a LONG day — headed to New York's NBC studios with America SCORES Executive Director Holly O'Donnell for an appearance on MSNBC's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell." The national show's first guest in 2010 was Joe Biden. On Monday night, Xavier owned the spotlight (VIDEO).
The 10-year-old could have been forgiven for appearing a bit tired on late-night TV, but Xavier was far from that. Rather, he was a natural in front of the camera, demonstrating the same poise he had two hours earlier in delivering his poem for the national TV audience and answering all of O'Donnell's questions without hesitation.
When the segment ended, Xavier — looking like a seasoned TV guest — told O'Donnell, "Thank you for having me."
After Monday's grand show, I had the same feeling for the poet-athletes who put on the greatest exhibition of self-expression I've ever witnessed.
If you weren't at the NYSE and missed the live streaming of the SLAM!, you can still watch it on the embedded player and HERE (beginning at the 22:00 mark).