At the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, one moment perfectly captured the reality of the present with aspirations for our future, and that moment came from poet Amanda Gorman.
The 22-year-old from Los Angeles first came to the attention of Jill Biden while attending an event at the Library of Congress where Gorman delivered an equally moving poem. Captivated, Biden invited the young woman to speak at the inauguration.
Entitled The Hill We Climb, Gorman faced her own hill by including events at the Capitol just two weeks earlier. However, her eloquence, poise, and passion were mesmerizing as she began, “Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?”
Gorman’s soaring words of aspiration and inspiration evoked those of Lincoln at his first inaugural address. Striving to heal a great divide and avoid a civil war, the 16th president expressed words of comfort, unity and hope: “…we are not enemies but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”
Similarly, Gorman spoke of healing our great divide with words of comfort, unity and hope. “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.”
With light in her eyes, and words from her heart, Gorman precisely expressed what was needed most.
Here are selected passages from a poem for the ages and a new poet laureate.
“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 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. …
“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 gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the winds swept north,
east where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rinsed 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
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,
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.”
Gorman’s words set forth our responsibilities as we…
Climb out of a deadly pandemic.
Climb back to fairness and equal justice.
Climb back with courage and civility to rebuild relationships.
Climb back to trustworthiness through facts and truth,
And together, restore our Democracy.