What Amanda Gorman and ‘The Hill We Climb’ Says About America
To say that Amanda Gorman has taken the country by storm — and dare we say the globe — would be an understatement. The brilliant young 23-year-old poet laureate delivered a rather accurate depiction of the modern state of affairs in the United States while bringing back hope, peace, and unity in less than 1,000 words.
Gorman represents a fired-up, socially-conscious generation intent on changing the world for the better. In a moment, you can read her words for yourself. First, however, it’s important to look at what the words themselves say about life in the 21st Century USA, starting with the obvious.
We Have Seen Better Days
As a country, we are wholly divided in how we choose to move forward and solve the massive issues facing us. Whether Democrat or Republican, left or right, your concept of what makes this country great and what would make it even better are about as different as night and day.
Gorman does more than allude to this in her jaw-dropping lines. “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.”
The question is, how will we “finish”? That’s one we’ll have to figure out by reaching across aisles, listening to one another, and moving forward in a peaceful manner even when we disagree.
We Have Seen Worse
Things seem awful now, but it’s true that the country has withstood much worse. The Civil War, Jim Crow laws that gave rise to the deadly years of the Civil Rights Movement, 9/11. We can and we have overcome. This fact isn’t lost on the brilliant Gorman, who writes this.
“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.”
The “arc of justice” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., writes about has been heading toward justice even though it hasn’t arrived. We only know this because of how ugly our country has been in the past at its collective worst.
Better Days Are Ahead
The great thing about Gorman and her entire generation is that they believe something better lies ahead for the US, even through mass shootings, police brutality, political divides, cyberbullying, and discrimination. As she states:
“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 promised glade / The hill we climb / If only we dare / It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit, / it’s the past we step into / and how we repair it.”
Attitudes like this are what will move us forward. Not hurling insults on social media or living for the next sick burn on those we disagree with. It took a dignified young woman like Gorman to point this out on a stage as big as the inauguration.
Unity Is the Word
The prevailing word through the entire transition of President Joe Biden has been unity. He says that he wants to be a President for all Americans, and the world will surely be watching to see if these are idle words or principles that drive change. However, no President or single person can do it alone.
As Gorman writes, “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.”
It takes buy-in from all of us. Luckily…
This Generation Is Staying Engaged
Gorman’s ending demonstrates that her generation has a good reading on the state of things and a great plan for how to achieve the promise of the American Dream that has never really been realized for certain groups of people. Just dig this part of the poem:
In this truthRead Gorman’s poem in its entirety at The Hill.
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-limbed 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
and 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
Amanda Gorman is nothing short of an inspiration, and her poem gives us great hope in the future, especially knowing that people like you will be leading us. Good luck!
[Featured Image by PxHere]