On Wednesday, Amanda Gorman ’20 stepped up to the podium to deliver the reading during the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden.
Her piece, titled “The Hill We Climb,” called for unity and justice, through both reckoning with the nation’s past and looking toward its future.
The former sociology concentrator is the U.S.’s first youth poet laureate. At 22 years old, she is also the youngest to present the inaugural reading, following in the footsteps of Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, and Elizabeth Alexander.
Former President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey lauded Gorman for her performance. The Los Angeles native also received praise from “Hamilton” playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, which she referenced in her poem.
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
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’ve 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 just-ice.
And yet the dawn is ours
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 a union with purpose,
to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, 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 lie in 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,
because being American is more than a pride we inherit —
it’s the past we step 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 inception.
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 the 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 from the gold-limned hills of 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 sunbaked south.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover
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.