Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ Inspires the Nation to Find Purpose
Donned in her sharp yellow blazer, Amanda Gorman delivered verses befitting this historical moment. She looked ahead, addressing a socially distanced crowd. In her poem, The Hill We Climb, she painted a picture of American democracy as bruised but still standing. Gorman’s poem addressed the need for reconciliation because of those who threatened democracy. She finished writing the inaugural poem while watching scenes from the dreadful insurrection unfold in Washington DC.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. — Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem January 20, 2021 (Yasharoff, 2021)
Unity became the theme of the inaugural celebration, which ushered in Joe Biden’s Presidency. As a life-long consensus builder, the 46th president set the tone. However, Amanda Gorman brought the message down to earth. Her poem expressed the triumph of American democracy, maintained through persistence rather than complacency.
While this day marked the beginning of a new administration, it also marked Kamala Harris’s crowning as America’s first Black woman Vice President. She sported purple to honor Shirley Chisholm. After all of the struggles Black women endure throughout American history, this moment shows that change is not only possible, it’s worth fighting to obtain.
Loving support for Amanda Gorman poured in throughout the day. Seeing a Black woman wearing a natural updo inspired Black women who saw themselves represented in more ways than one. Oprah gifted her a set of earrings and a caged-bird ring as a tribute to Maya Angelo; she wore them during the ceremony. Her poetry inspired the new First Lady and teacher, Jill Biden, who advocated for her selection as the inaugural poet.
Gorman became the youth poet laureate of L.A. when she was 16-years old. Three years later, she became the first national youth poet laureate. Her prose resonated with a nation, searching for its way forward. Amanda Gorman has political ambitions that transcend this moment. According to the Lost Angeles Times, Amanda Gorman will pursue a run for President in 2036.
Growing up, I heard many people doubt that this nation could ever elect a Black man as President. And, as I voted for the first time, I placed my ballot on the side of change, believing that we could make the impossible attainable. Hearing a 22-year old Black woman aspire to fill that seat shows what America can become when we throw out precedent and embrace possibility. Representation matters, and after hundreds of years of White presidents, my generation bore witness to the rise of prominent, successful Black politicians. Now, a Black woman shared her hopes to shatter another glass ceiling. The future is unchained, unbossed, and unbridled in its pursuit of a noble purpose.
Gorman discussed the importance of representation in government. Like civil rights leaders who came before her, Gorman delivered a message about American potential rather than American exceptionalism.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming President only to find herself reciting for one.
And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose. To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man. — Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem January 20, 2021 (Yasharoff, 2021)
Too often, Americans portray the nation as a finished project, but Gorman’s poem shows we must strive to create and maintain a multiracial, multicultural democracy. One could only imagine what type of Presidency she could have one day. Nevertheless, her insistence on prioritizing inclusivity and equality sparked hope.
Perhaps one day, America can be as great as the slave-owning White founders believed it was when they signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Maybe one day America can become a country where skin color never kneecaps potential, and the nation commits itself to rectify wrongs rather than professing perfection.
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.— Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem January 20, 2021
In The Hill We Climb, Gorman exonerated us from our constant march towards excellence. Instead, she encouraged America to find and commit to a purpose. After listening to her passionate refrains, many Americans savored this triumphant moment. Legally, and at long last, the country can move forward. Her bold message inspired Americans to feel joy in overcoming adversity, sharing a faith that we can maintain self-governance.
So while once we asked ‘how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe,’ now we assert: ‘how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us? — Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem January 20, 2021 (Yasharoff, 2021)
Her bold message uplifted Americans who recently witnessed their government attacked by domestic terrorists. She did not cling to unity as a shield for wrongdoing but instead presented it as a sword that could defend our nation from tyranny.
America does not have to be perfect, nor should it strive for perfection. Instead, Amanda Gorman’s prophetic poem inspired Americans, insisting we can overcome adversity together by addressing that which divides us.
“So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left,” — Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem January 20, 2021, (Yasharoff, 2021).
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Barajas, J. (2021, January 17). How a 22-year-old L.A. native became Biden’s inauguration poet. Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2021-01-17/amanda-gorman-biden-inauguration-poet
Yasharoff, H. (2021, January 20). Amanda Gorman performs a powerful poem at inauguration: Read the full text of ‘The Hill We Climb.’ Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2021/01/20/read-amanda-gorman-inauguration-poem-the-hill-we-climb/4231769001/