Amanda Gorman’s Poem Steals the Show at Inauguration/by Morgan Miller

On Jan. 20, the United States saw the inauguration of its newest president, Joe Biden.

The event was already destined to be extraordinary given the political climate surrounding it, from the COVID-19 pandemic to recent riots at the Capitol. However, the event largely went off without a hitch.

Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first female, first Asian American, and first African American Vice President, and Joe Biden was sworn in as President following the polarizing election in November. There were celebrity performances, shining speeches, and a small gathering of people backed by a sea of American flags in the distance. But there was one moment that seemed to stand out from the rest as the festivities were carried out: Amanda Gorman’s staggering recital of her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At just 22 years old, Amanda Gorman has gone down as the youngest inaugural poet in history. Her poem, completed exactly two weeks before the inauguration, is akin to a battle cry for unity in the face of a nation that is indeed bruised but not broken. Her words are soul-stirring and hopeful for a better future, echoing around Washington and the minds of the public long after the recital was finished.

Poetry is an inherently beautiful thing. When read to one’s self, the silent fierceness of words on a page is something readers can hold in their hearts as a means of comfort and quiet motivation. However, poetry takes on a different body of its own when read in the voice of its writer. 

Seeing and hearing Amanda Gorman recite her poem the way she intended for it to be read was an experience all its own. As she stood in her yellow coat and red headband, the eyes of the world were upon her. And with each breath and flourish of her hand, she showed them that magic did indeed exist in the words being projected. 

The entirety of “The Hill We Climb” is a manifestation of brilliance, but it is the ending in particular that deserves added praise. Gorman closes the poem with the lines, “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.” 

Beautiful phrases exist all around us, but it’s a rare thing to come across words that cause the heart to stutter. It’s a rare thing to hear something that makes you want to both cry and cheer in equal measure. It’s a rare thing for someone so young to put something into the world that deserves a spot next to the literary greats of a bygone age. It’s a rare thing to see the anthem of our nation’s next chapter delivered in a way where every word is perfect, every breath measured and purposeful.

Amanda Gorman accomplished all of this and more with “The Hill We Climb,” and given her young age, this is likely just the beginning for her. With so much ahead, it would come as no surprise if she emerges as the poet that defines an entire generation. 

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