The Walt Whitman Foundation is the culmination of a ten year vision shared by a group of seven friends and colleagues. The Foundation's purpose is to provide assistance to high school and college students through mentoring and scholarships.
Mentoring may take many forms, including the areas of college selection, the financial aid process, academic progress, and career choice. Not all students who are accepted into the mentoring program will receive scholarships, although as the resources of the Foundation continue to grow, so will the number of available scholarships. At its most fundamental level, however, the goal of the Foundation is to foster confidence, creativity, and commitment in young men and women so that they may — in the words of Walt Whitman — “contribute a verse" to the powerful play of life.
Walt Whitman is one of the foremost American poets. He is renowned for his revolutionary style, as he was the first major American poet to write nearly all of his works in free verse with no regard to meter or rhyme. This alone recommends him as an innovative person, but his avant-garde approach to poetry was merely symbolic of his philosophy of life and how to live it. Whitman wrote in the mid-1800s at a time when the nation was undergoing great change. Whitman’s subject matter and stylistic devices, such as his lengthy lists of names and places, manifest his embrace of Jeffersonian Democracy in ways which the founding fathers including Thomas Jefferson himself espoused but never actually practiced. Whitman included both slave and free; Indians, Hispanics, Whites, Blacks, and Asians; male and female; north and south; upper class and working class; and many other dichotomies and divisions of people in his catalogs in order to share his prophetic vision of Jeffersonian Democracy.
As the namesake of the Walt Whitman Foundation, Walt Whitman is the ultimate symbol of a group dedicated to helping the “least of these” in our society. All one has to do to prove worthy of assistance from the Walt Whitman Foundation is to show a need to be helped, a desire to achieve great things, and a work ethic which will enable the dream to be accomplished. Whitman’s own words serve as the inspiration for the Foundation:
O ME! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish; Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?) Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d; Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me; Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined; The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here—that life exists, and identity; That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
We at the Walt Whitman Foundation, in the spirit of Walt Whitman himself, are dedicated to the proposition of helping as many young men and women as possible to “contribute a verse.”
The Foundation is currently funded exclusively through donations. A premium is placed on both transparency and efficiency. In particular, the board strives to keep administrative costs at a minimum, often choosing to pay overhead expenses out of pocket rather than diminishing the Foundation’s funds. Donors, or others interested, are encouraged to contact the Foundation for more information or visit the Donations Page.