Written by Clarissa-Jan Lim and Amber Jamieson
“I didn’t think that I was going to cry during the inauguration but then Amanda Gorman happened.”
Amanda Gorman made her mark as the youngest inaugural poet in the country’s history, winning over new fans with a powerful reading of her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at President Biden’s inauguration Wednesday.
The 22-year-old from California, who became the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, told the New York Times that she was working on the poem when the Jan. 6 insurrection happened, as rioters incited by former president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building. She stayed up late into the night to write about the images of violence she saw that day.
A young Los Angeles poet read a stirring piece at President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, words she’d written to both celebrate the country’s new chapter and address the mob attack on the US Capitol.
“When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” Amanda Gorman began in her inaugural poem.
At 22, Gorman is the youngest ever person selected to write a poem for a president’s inauguration. But this isn’t the first time Gorman has been on the national stage: In 2017, she became the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate.
We shared a few reflection on our instagram account: @gc4women
“WHAT AN HONOR to be the Inaugural Poet of 2021,” Gorman wrote on Instagram.
The poet studied speeches by Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. as part of her research for the inauguration poem.
She was halfway through writing it when a pro-Trump mob staged an insurrection at the Capitol two weeks ago, the New York Times reported.
She stayed up late on Jan 6. and finished the poem, including lines about the Capitol attack — “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it / Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.”
Gorman told the Times that her poem was “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.”
First lady Jill Biden had seen Gorman do a reading at the Library of Congress, and the inauguration committee reached out to her last month asking if she would write something to perform at the inauguration.
“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,” said Gorman.
On the morning of the inauguration, Gorman — dressed in a sleek long yellow coat and a red headband — posted selfies on Instagram with the Obamas and the Clintons.
Here’s Gorman’s 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.
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 windswept Northeast 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.