Amanda Gorman just became the youngest poet in recent history to read a poem at a presidential inauguration.
On Wednesday, the 22-year-old Los Angeles poet Amanda Gorman made history as the youngest known inaugural poet. She read her own poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’ at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Moments after Biden was sworn in as America’s 46th president, Gorman followed in the footsteps of Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco by offering her words for the new democratic president. Gorman is the youngest of these inaugural poets to offer her verse.
The full reading can be watched in PBSO’s video below:
She began writing the poem at the beginning of January shortly after being invited to recite for the occasion. When she was about halfway through it, chaos at the Capitol began to unfold and she knew she had to “talk about it,” she tells NPR. Her poem refers to “a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it” and “destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.” Then it turns toward hope and continues with: “This effort very nearly succeeded/But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”
Gorman struggled with a speech impediment as a child (something she shares with Biden) and used poetry as means of expression. She later became LA’s youth poet laureate at 16 and three years after that while studying at Harvard, she became the first national youth poet laureate.
“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,” Gorman told the Times. And the young poet and performer managed to truly capture the moment and inspire us with her words.
Here is her powerful poem in full:
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 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 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 gaze, 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.
And 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 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, become the future.
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 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 windswept 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.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons 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.
Featured Image: Screenshot from Biden Inaugural Committee’s live streaming