I am in awe of this amazing woman.
This picture is iconic. It is not something I will ever forget. It warms my heart and fills me with joy.
It’s interesting that she stands at a podium emblazoned with the words ‘…President of the United States’.
I heard that she will be running for president in 2036. I cannot wait.
Photocredit: from Amanda Gorman Instagram account
To whom to I refer?
She is America’s first national youth laureate
She is 22-years old and is the youngest poet given the honour of delivering the presidential inaugural poem. She follows in the footsteps of five previous poets who have taken this spot, all interestingly for three Democratic presidents. John F Kennedy chose Robert Frost (1961), Bill Clinton chose Maya Angelou (1993) and Miller Williams (1997) and Barack Obama chose Elizabeth Alexander (2009) and Richard Blanco (2013).
Amanada was named America’s first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017. She went to Harvard and studied sociology, graduating last year. I have spent the past few hours just Googling her and she continues to inspire and amaze me. I found a YouTube video, one of many, of a poetry reading at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in 2019. The poems were good but what was fascinating was the question and answer session at the end. She was asked by an audience member to talk about her experiences at Harvard, how she coped with the transition. Part of her answer just made me want to stand up and clap. She talked about people discovering that they are amongst other high achievers and feeling overwhelmed by other people that appear to have achieved so much more – ‘ a lot of sharks, who are used to being the biggest fish in the pond and all of the sudden they are in the ocean‘. And within that from her perspective and heritage:
…especially when you are a woman, especially if you are a person of colour, etc etc. You step into that type of Ivy League environment and you go you know ” ah what an honour for me to be here at Harvard”. And kinda in my second year in, I started thinking “what honour for Harvard, for me to be here”
I don’t say that with prentitousness. I don’t say that with ego. But it is me really owning up to the history and the legacy of the instutions that I have been lucky enough to have a key into…”Amanda Gorman, 2019
I’m so glad that she is now on my radar. I’m following her on Instagram and Twitter. And of course, I’m going to buy any book that she authors.
Her inaugural poem is one of beautiful and wonder and fills me, the listener and the reader with a profound sense of hope.
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 justice.
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 our 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’s 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.
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 it 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 golden hills of the west.
We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked south.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
In every known nook of our nation, in 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.
After listening to her and watching her, it feels like there is nothing more to say but to stand mesmorised in quiet reverance. But of course it’s not over yet, it’s a new dawn and a new day. And I’m feeling good.