Presidental Inauguration

Inauguration Poet Amanda Gorman is the Inspiration and Optimism We All Need

President Joe Biden’s Inauguration ceremony was unlike any other, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the mass crowds were instead replaced by American flags and those who did attend, donned masks that matched their attire. History was made in the appointment of Kamala Harris as vice president, the first black, the first asian-american and first female to hold office. President Joe Biden’s speech spoke of unity, democracy, race, climate change and a better America. Lady Gaga sang the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez revived ‘This land is your land’ and ‘America the beautiful’. Yet, it was the 22-year old poet, Amanda Gorman who delivered the moving and poignant poem that ‘stole the show’. Her self-authored poem, entitled ‘The Hill We Climb’ called for unity and togetherness, and was exactly the inspiration and hope we needed in the face of challenges that the year 2020 and 2021 has so far brought.

Amanda Gorman became the youngest poet ever to perform at an inauguration ceremony and to huge success. She follows figures such as Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Miller Williams, Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco, who all read at a presidential inauguration ceremony. Amanda’s poem, which was powerfully and perfectly delivered, imbued the strength, hope, integrity needed to dream of a better future. Gorman instilled optimism for a country that has endured severe losses from a global health pandemic, fought tirelessly against racial injustice, has been drastically divided by politics and witnessed shocking and violent threats to democracy – but a country that has none the less endured. A country that can grow, fight, change and improve, where racial equality can be achieved and democracy succeeds, a country that can rise up even in hardship and carve a better, fairer future. It was a poem that delivered hope and light at a time of suffering and darkness.

The New York Times reported, that in early January, Gormon was struggling to complete the poem, writing a few lines a day and completing approximately half of the poem by January 6th. She said: “I had this huge thing, probably one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my career. It was like, if I try to climb this mountain all at once, I’m just going to pass out.”
On January 6th, pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol building in Washington DC in an attempt to overthrow November’s presidential election result, which saw Joe Biden become the 46th US president. The events of the Capitol sparked Gorman into finishing the rest of the poem, on the back of such horrific events.

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Amanda stated: “In my poem, I’m not going to in any way gloss over what we’ve seen over the past few weeks and, dare I say, the past few years. But what I really aspire to do in the poem is to be able to use my words to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal. It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”

The Guardian reported the poem in full, written by Amanda Gormon:

When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.
We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,
and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken,
but simply unfinished.
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.
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
This effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith, we trust,
for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared it at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour,
but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So while once we asked, ‘How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?’ now we assert, ‘How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?’

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.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the west.
We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked south.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country,
our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge, battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

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Amanda Gorman can be found at Her upcoming poetry collection ‘The Hill we Climb’ will be published by Penguin Random House in September this year. Alongside, her debut children’s book ‘Change Sings’.

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