AAP founder Marie Bullock gave this speech back in 1937 at the Chautauqua Woman's Club, Chautauqua, New York to celebrate the creation of The Academy of American Poets. I'm not including the whole thing, but you can read the complete version here
"I want you to carry this message away with you, close to your hearts, into your worlds, when you go home from Chautauqua.
Let us turn to poetry.
Poetry was originally the reply to a crying need. It answered a practical question. The necessity for news. Minnesingers and troubadours on their long journeyings gave a lilt and a rhythm to their messages that made them easier to remember and to tell. Poetry grew with the times. It became the privilege of princes and courtiers and it sang of heroism and of love in all the royal courts of Europe.
Poetry, besides chronicling beauty, has always painted the most vivid picture of its own times. Romantic or stark with facts, it has been the perfect description of the period it sought to depict or the age in which it was composed. And this is true of all countries and all times.
Why should poets be the only artists to give away their life-work?
It were well to look abroad and see what is being done in other countries today. Besides the facts that I have mentioned in connection with children and the youth of various nations studying poetry in all its forms, there are certain great organizations to consider.
In France, L'Académle Française; in Germany, the Goethe-Haus; in Italy, d'Annunzio's Accademia, and in England, of course, there is the Poet Laureate as well as the Civil List, upon which we may find some of the most outstanding names in English literature, receiving a life annuity. I shall only mention these. You know them all so well.
Besides all this, the poet abroad has a certain aura of honor about him. His name is spoken with awe; he is honored and admired publicly; his books are read and criticized frequently. He is revered and honored in his own country.
Today we are beginning to show an understanding for the needs of poetry in America. We have taken the first step. We have created The Academy of American Poets.
It has two principal purposes: first, to encourage and foster the work of American poets of outstanding merit; second, to discover new poetic genius wherever it may be in the United States.
As the main part of this program, The Academy of American Poets plans to award Fellowships which carry a stipend of five thousand dollars for the term of one year.
This is a national organization, and you carry its message to all corners of our country. Carry it high in your hearts, carry it foremost in your minds.
Through the stress and strain of daily living, ring your own pure note of idealism and love of beauty. Be an army of builders with a goal of construction. Build beauty for yourselves and for your children.
Poets.org (the Academy of American Poets web site) has, among other things:
~ poems for every occasion
~ poetry audio and video
~ a poetry events calendar
~ a teaching resource center
~ make your own virtual notebook of poems, or check out what other people have put together.