Twenty-two-year-old Amanda Gorman just made history as the sixth and the youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration in the history of the United States. She follows in the footsteps of such luminaries as Maya Angelou, who spoke at former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, and Robert Frost who appeared at President Kennedy’s.
Gorman had to overcome a speech impairment as a child just as President Joe Biden did. She recited a piece of work she concluded after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. “There is space for grief and horror and hope and unity, and I also hope that there is a breath for joy in the poem, because I do think we have a lot to celebrate at this inauguration,” the Los Angeles native told The New York Times.
The poem is entitled “The Hill We Climb” and sends a powerful message of hope and unity in times of unprecedented division and “a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it.”
The poem begins simply, “When day comes, we ask ourselves: Where can we find light in this never ending shade?” Gorman recited. “The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We braved the belly of the beast.” Referring to her own experience, she described the experience of “when 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.”
Her poem recounts the demands a country and a people have faced and yet, “Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed/ A nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.” And she closed with: “There is always light/if only we’re brave enough to see it/ if only we’re brave enough to be it.”
You can read the whole poem here.
I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I. pic.twitter.com/I5HLE0qbPs
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) January 20, 2021