The most awe-inspiring and captivating moment of Wednesday’s ceremony in Washington was the recitation of the inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb,” which perfectly captured this moment in our nation’s history and set the tone for the hopeful future our nation desperately needs.
The poem’s author — 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history who was named the nation’s First Youth Poet Laureate at the age of 19 — stood out from the crowd as she recited the words she finished writing just weeks before.
From her hope-filled words to her bright yellow coat and unabashedly youthful enthusiasm at participating in such a historic and prominent moment, Gorman stood apart from the mostly well-aged and experienced political players populating the Capitol steps.
In the nearly six minutes it took for her to recite her piece, Gorman proved herself the embodiment of the old adage “the future of the world belongs to its youth.”
From her rhythmic comparison of how what “just is” isn’t always “justice” to her declaration that “We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one” and that “There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it,” Gorman spoke unequivocally to the heart of a nation burdened by division, and she did so weighing carefully the meaning of each and every word.
Speaking to The New York Times following the inaugural ceremony, Gorman said she wanted her poem and her words to “envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal.” She added, “It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”
On a day for the history books, @TheAmandaGorman delivered a poem that more than met the moment. Young people like her are proof that "there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it; if only we're brave enough to be it." pic.twitter.com/mbywtvjtEH— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 20, 2021
Standing on the Capitol balcony at just 22, Gorman made it clear she understands that words have power and that how their power is used can shape and determine not only how we interpret our current circumstances, but also how we act to shape our futures.
Her careful and purposeful use of every single word put her in stark contrast to the former president who, only hours before, left Washington after reaping the consequences for abusing, or at the very least underestimating, that very same power of words.
As Gorman and her poem go viral — her speech has been retweeted by the likes of Oprah and Barack Obama while her Twitter profile is literally gaining thousands of followers by the hour on Twitter — I find restored hope in the American people’s understanding that words, whether written or spoken — do indeed hold great power and that how we wield them — from the youngest of influencers to the oldest of leaders — matters.
Gorman stole the show not only because she emulates the youthful and hopeful future we strive for, but because she understands, as she read during the inauguration ceremony, that “We are striving to form 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.”