Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem stirs hope and awe
The inauguration of Joe Biden featured a slew of high-profile performers on Wednesday, but for many it was the lesser-known Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in US history, who truly wowed the crowd.
Gorman, who was named the first-ever national youth poet laureate in 2017, gave a powerful, five-minute performance after Biden was sworn in. She recited a poem she had written, in part, on the day of the US Capitol riots on 6 January .The Hill We Climb: the Amanda Gorman poem that stole the inauguration
It was a tour-de-force from Gorman, who was approached by the Biden inaugural committee in late December, as the 22-year-old called for Americans to “leave behind a country better than the one we were left”.
“We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,” Gorman read. “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.”
The performance won instant plaudits, including from Michelle Obama, who sat just behind Gorman as she spoke.
Oprah Winfrey referenced the late poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou in her praise.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman!” Winfrey wrote. “Maya Angelou is cheering – and so am I.”
Ayanna Pressley, a progressive congresswoman from Massachusetts, also expressed congratulations, as did Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic candidate for Georgia governor who has been credited with boosting voter turnout in the state, leading to a rare Democratic win.
“Amanda Gorman’s message serves as an inspiration to us all,” Abrams tweeted, along with a video of the full five-minute performance.
“I honor you, @TheAmandaGorman. Thank you,” Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr wrote on Twitter, while Cory Booker, the senator from New Jersey who ran for president himself in 2020, thanked Gorman “for sharing such powerful and inspiring words today”.
The New York Times reported that Gorman had written parts of the poem as she stayed up “late into the night” on 6 January, as the US grappled with the consequences of Donald Trump inciting an attack on the Capitol that left five dead.
Gorman, who was born and raised in Los Angeles and graduated from Harvard University in 2020, told the Times ahead of Wednesday that she would not “gloss over” what the country had witnessed in recent weeks and years.
“But 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,” Gorman said. “It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”
As Gorman’s performance drew to a close, she ended the poem on an optimistic note for the future.
“We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover,” Gorman said.
“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.”