As humans, we cling to any bit of light we find amidst the darkness that surrounds us, and most of the time, we hold onto words. The United States’ youngest inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman, was the ray of hope many Americans needed in a time of great distress and panic. At only 22 years old, Gorman stood before the country at the exact spot where Trump supporters breached the Capitol two weeks earlier. Yet on this day, Gorman recited a poem she wrote, “The Hill We Climb,” which is still ringing through my ears a week later.
There are times when we find it difficult to put into words how we are feeling, and it’s a truly magical experience when a complete stranger is able to accurately depict the thoughts swirling through your head. Poetry has the power to soothe, inspire and reassure, which is how many of us felt hearing Gorman spoke. It was as if the country came to a still silence as we watched and listened with bruised, yet open, hearts. In a time where most of us are still grieving over everything that has happened in the last year, Gorman’s poem gave us the start of a healing period, where we must continue moving forward and focus on what is to come.
It’s easy to think only of the past traumas that we have faced as a country. That’s why a poem that highlights the future and what we are striving for as a nation is what we needed to hear the most.
Gorman makes pop culture and historical references in her piece, which connects people of all ages. She speaks of bravery and our purpose as a nation; we may be far from perfect, yet we are working together to leave our divisions in the past. The vulnerability we feel as citizens is evident through her words as she points out how hurt and tired we feel, yet we must continue to build bridges.
Gorman brings up the future multiple times throughout her poem, and while the future may feel far away, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be our main focus. She states that even though we didn’t feel prepared, “We found the power to author a new chapter,” and that “we will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be.” Resilience radiates between her words, giving Americans the assurance, inspiration and guidance to continue taking baby steps forward every day.
Leaving a lasting impact with just a few words is not an easy task. There will come a day where “The Hill We Climb” will be included in English textbooks across the United States, when students will try to understand the way we felt as a country on Inauguration Day of 2021. Amanda Gorman’s words hold power and truth. After all, the pen is far mightier than the sword.