MINNEAPOLIS – The work of Minneapolis poet Michael Dennis Browne took center stage during Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration after Browne welcomed the opportunity to write lyrics for a song.

“Now We Belong” is a tribute of gratitude the country Browne loves, after he immigrated to the United States from England 51 years ago.

Browne’s lyrics became the core message of music by composer John Wykoff of Lee University in Tennessee, and the Missouri State University Chorale performed the song before Trump took the oath of office.

Browne, 76, a former English professor at the University of Minnesota for 39 years, wrote the piece in his backyard writing shed, and remembers how easily the words came to him. He initially wrote the words believing Hillary Clinton would be elected as the first female president, but says the same words still apply to Trump’s presidency.

“I wanted to suggest America is great because it is full of diverse people and it just kind of flowed out, didn’t take much effort to write because I was speaking from the heart,” said Browne. “In this very difficult time I hope this will cheer people a little give them some hope because underpinning all the bad stuff is a deep love for what we’ve done here.”

The core message comes at the end of the first stanza.

“Once we were strangers / We were welcomed / Now we belong and believe in this land.”

“It reminds of our original purpose here, we need one another, so there is a sense of evoking community, and national community,” said Browne.

Browne has written many texts for music, working principally with composer Stephen Paulus, and is known for another famed collaboration, “Hymn for America.” His works have been featured at the funerals of President Ford and President Reagan and will also be featured in a Trump presidential prayer service this upcoming weekend.

Read the entire text of Browne’s lyrics below.

Now We Belong

Here are the voices of every creature,

Here are the calls of every heart;

Here is the place of strangers’ welcome,

We who once walked in strangers’ shoes.

Once we were strangers,

We were welcomed,

Now we belong and believe in this land.

Here are the rivers of many echoes,

Here are the leaves of every tree;

Within us live the long horizons,

Winds that stir the sacred stones.

Once we were strangers,

We were welcomed,

Now we belong and believe in this land.

Keep faith, keep watch,

Take heart, take courage,

Guard mind, guard spirit.

Feed love, feed longing.

Here are the cities where we have gathered,

Here are the barns where hope is stored;

We are the gleams of every being,

Filled with the dreams that build the day.

Once we were strangers,

We were welcomed,

Now we belong and believe in this land.

Keep faith,

Guard mind,

Take heart,

Guard spirit,

Take courage,

Keep watch.

Feed longing,

Feed love.

for music by John Wykoff

presidential inauguration 2017

Missouri State University Chorale

© Michael Dennis Browne 2016