POETRY FRIDAY: A Poem about Jonas Salk

Jonas Salk

Jonas Salk

By Elaine Magliaro

As we’ve been having a discussion about vaccinations and anti-vaxxers at FFS, I thought I’d post a poem that I wrote a few years ago for a poetry anthology titled Dare to Dream…Change the World. Jill Corcoran is the individual responsible for putting together the anthology, which paired inspirational poems with biographical poems about people who invented something, stood for something, said something…people who defied the naysayers and not only changed their own lives, but the lives of people all over the world. My biographical poem about Jonas Salk was paired with an inspirational poem written by my friend Janet Wong, an award-winning poet. Her poem is titled My Polio Shot. Janet’s mother–who was born in Korea–contracted polio when she was young. daretodream2 I chose Jonas Salk as the subject of my poem because I remember how fearful parents were back in the 1950s that their children might contract the dread disease—one that had crippled so many. Highly infectious, poliomyelitis—also known as infantile paralysis—chiefly affected children. I can still vividly recall standing in line at Peabody City Hall when I was  nine or ten years old waiting to get vaccinated. I also remember how relieved everyone was after the Salk vaccine had been declared safe and effective. Jonas Salk changed the world for me… and for millions of other people. SalkInnoculatingGirl JONAS SALK POEM
By Elaine Magliaro

The word “polio” spawned an epidemic of fear.

Worried parents

Asked, “How is it spread?”

Wondered, “Will my child be stricken?”

Hoped someone would find a cure.

I would be a problem solver,

Find a way

To vanquish the unseen foe—

A virus crippling so many.


I set to work in my laboratory.

Years passed into history.

Then time stood still

As I waited…waited to hear

The good news

That the vaccine I developed worked,

That it built a wall of immunity

Against the dread disease,

That it would protect the children—

Those who were most vulnerable.


President Eisenhower said he had no words to thank me.

I needed no thanks.

I had lived my dream to help mankind.

When asked who owned the patent on my vaccine, I replied,

“There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

It belonged to the people.

March_of_dimes Dare to Dream…Change the World was a winner of the 2013 Notable Books for a Global Society Award. It was also voted one of the Best Children’s Books of 2013 by the Bankstreet College of Education. SalkVaccineWorks Here is the  informational paragraph that I wrote about Jonas Salk for Dare to Dream…Change the World: Jonas Salk once said,  “It is always with excitement that I wake up in the morning wondering what my intuition will toss up to me, like gifts from the sea. I work with it and rely on it. It’s my partner.” Salk thought that the way nature worked seemed to be “quite magical.” He entered medical school with the desire to to become a medical researcher, to look for ways to prevent and find cures for diseases. In 1950, Salk was awarded a grant to fund research into polio. After five years, Salk and his team developed a vaccine that was declared safe and effective. At a special ceremony at the White House on April 22, 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower presented Jonas Salk with the U.S. Medal of Merit for his work.

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7 Responses to POETRY FRIDAY: A Poem about Jonas Salk

  1. blouise says:

    I remember standing in line at school on a Saturday morning. My mother was so relieved that this worry was behind us.

    “President Eisenhower said he had no words to thank me.
    I needed no thanks.”

    She would have loved your poem

  2. Bob Kauten says:

    Thank you, Elaine.
    We owe Jonas Salk, big time.
    I think I got the oral vaccine. Didn’t taste too bad.
    People were afraid to let their kids use swimming pools, in those days.

    But vaccines don’t work. I read it several times on the interwebz.
    I have deep feelings toward folks who make that claim.

  3. Elaine M. says:


    There are two types of vaccine that protect against polio: Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) and Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). IPV, used in the U.S. since 2000, is given as an injection in the leg or arm, depending on age. OPV is taken by mouth. Polio vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.


  4. gbk says:

    Nice, Elaine; thanks.

  5. From the “You Can’t Make This Up” department, we have this interesting story.

    Anti-vaccine megachurch hit with measles epidemic, now offering free vaccinations

  6. Bob Kauten says:

    Andy Borowitz:
    Zombie Jonas Salk Rises from Grave to Hunt Idiots

  7. Inga says:

    I too recall getting the “sugar cube” in school. I don’t recall if the parents even needed to give consent, I assume they must’ve. We were all lined up and given our sugar cube and were happy to have gotten out of class for a treat.

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