Story at a glance

  • Today, Jan. 20, marked the historic inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris.
  • Among those who performed at the presidential inauguration was young poet Amanda Gorman — the nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate.
  • Gorman recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” for the nation to hear, sharing that many of its lines were written during the recent insurrection of the Capitol.

At 22 years of age, most young adults are occupied with finishing up college or getting their start in the working world. At the same young age, poet Amanda Gorman was stepping up to a podium to deliver the powerful prose of “The Hill We Climb,” a speech Gorman had prepared for the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris.

Gorman already made history when she was appointed to become the United States’s first-ever National Youth Poetry Laureate. A graduate of Harvard University, Gorman also became the youngest inaugural poet in memory following President Biden’s oath of office. 

The Hill We Climb

The young poet has expressed in interviews the struggle she experienced writing “The Hill We Climb” — an undoubtedly nerve-wracking endeavor considering she would soon be sharing the poem with the newly inaugurated president of the United States as well as the nation. 

“I had this huge thing, probably one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my career,” she said in an interview. “It was like, if I try to climb this mountain all at once, I’m just going to pass out.”

Gorman shared that she had only gotten about halfway through the poem when the insurrection of the Capitol occurred on Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters forced their way into the same building where she would be soon be delivering her poem. 

She stayed awake long into the night, shocked yet inspired to finish her poem, adding verses about the disturbing scenes that unfolded that day.

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.

It was the poet’s intention to “not … in any way gloss over what we’ve seen over the past few weeks and, dare I say, the past few years,” said Gorman. “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.”

Gorman’s intentions were clear in “The Hill We Climb,” as she recited lines such as: "When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade,” and “so let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left. Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.”

Her hope-filled speech received well-deserved recognition from icons such as the former First Lady Michelle Obama and renowned actress Regina King, who wrote on Twitter

“You @TheAmandaGorman give me hope. You are grace personified. You captured the history of this country and what democracy should mean beautifully. Thank you for showing up for LA. Thank you for showing up for this country.”

In a year that’s beginning with a major milestone, with her appearance at the inauguration, Gorman is set to reach a much larger audience with her work. In September, Viking Books for Young Readers will release her debut poetry collection, also titled “The Hill We Climb,” which is aimed at teenage and adult readers and will include the inaugural poem. Her debut children’s book, “Change Sings,” with illustrations by Loren Long, is set to release on the same day.

 


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Published on Jan 20, 2021