by Dylan Lee
Amanda Gorman recited her poem, The Hill We Climb at US president Joe Biden’s Inauguration in January with confidence and poise. Until that moment, what looked like a dark time for the world, she stood on the podium being seen as a bright light of hope and courage.
Gorman’s triumph is no small feat. Surrounded by some of the most powerful and accomplished group of leaders of our nation, her poem sparked an awakening and inspiration for a country divided, one still healing from political insurrection and scrambling against a pandemic. One of the most popular lines in her poem is “Where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president.” Referencing herself, this line illustrates how society is shifting and that Kamala Harris’ win was historic. She believes America is a place where she can envision herself one day being President. This poem will be an integral piece of writing for history as Gorman continues to grow as a leader in America.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Amanda Gorman was raised by her mother, an English teacher, who encouraged her to start writing when she was only a few years of age. She had a speech impediment as a child, and would oftentimes describe herself as the oddball who enjoyed writing and reading. Gorman earned the title of National Youth Poet Laureate for her body of work that focused on oppression, feminism, race and marginalization.
When we began our sophomore year in the fall with a 4-weeks main lesson block on Poetry with Dr. Alison Davis, I had very little appreciation on how to savor words. I often struggled with the request to think about what words meant to me personally, and to use them as a vehicle for expression with meaningful intention and purposeful writing. Now, I am beginning to see and understand that poetry is not only rooted in oral traditions and performance. Hearing Amanda Gorman passionately speak to issues of social justice, politics, race and community gives me another insight in helping to connect ideas as well as deepen my comprehension. Poetry develops empathy, which can readily be applied to real-world situations. Dr. Davis is right that one of the most powerful things poetry can do is to refocus and in time, shape people’s point of view.
Today’s Gen Z global leaders, like Amanda, unlike any other generations before them, are personally vested and passionately taking the challenges in front of them in a very vocal manner. Challenges like systemic racism and nativism, the sustainability of our environment and climate change, advocating for human rights, and alleviating poverty and hunger are seen as real threats to daily life, not just distant issues.
Amanda Gorman has not only become more well known after her Inauguration debut. This past weekend, who would have thought that poetry and football would be the conversation in many households before the debut of Super Bowl LIVE when she dedicated her latest poem to three frontline workers whom the NFL dubbed honorary captains ahead of the coin toss.
Amanda Gorman is only going to become more well known. She is a determined, beautifully well-spoken woman who is focused on making the world more just. The closing lines of her inauguration poem read,
“For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”