22-year-old Amanda Gorman, the youngest poet ever to perform at a presidential inauguration, delivered an incredibly powerful poem to the world as America welcomed President Joe Biden Vice-President Kamala Harris into their new roles.
Gorman was named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States in 2017 and the first-ever Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate in 2014.
The talented writer and poet began writing as a young girl as a way of coping with her speech impediment, making her delivery of her rousing poem The Hill We Climb even more impressive. Then, in 2020, she graduated cum laude (with honour) from Harvard University with a degree in sociology.
During her poetic address, Gorman referenced the tumult of the past four years and described the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill reciting, “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.”
WATCH: Amanda Gorman performs The Hill We Rise. Story continues…
Ahead of her address to the inauguration audience, Gorman received words of support and encouragement from Oprah Winfrey who also gave her a very symbolic present.
Winfrey gifted Gorman with a ring depicting a caged bird, in honour of the beloved late Maya Angelou (another inaugural poet) and her famous poem Caged Bird. She also gave the young poet the gold hoop earrings she wore during her appearance.
Taking to Twitter after Gorman’s recitation, Winfrey wrote, “I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”
The impressive 22-year-old also received high praise from former-First Lady Michelle Obama who tweeted, “With her strong and poignant words, @TheAmandaGorman reminds us of the power we each hold in upholding our democracy. Keep shining, Amanda! I can’t wait to see what you do next. #BlackGirlMagic” in support of the young poet.
Gorman published her first book of poetry, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, in 2015 and has two upcoming books with Penguin Random House, including an illustrated children’s book Change Sings and an upcoming poetry collection.
Mr President, Dr Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr Emhoff, Americans and the world, 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 hours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve 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, colours, characters, and conditions of man. 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 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 lighten 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 stepped 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 deception. 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. 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 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 through the gold-limbed hills in 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, in every known nook of our nation, in 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.