In our current society, poets and poetry rarely get the broad recognition they deserve. An exception to this is The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman. When she read this poem to the nation as the Youth Poet Laureate at Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony on January 20, 2021, I for one was floored. That a 22-year-old poet could compose such powerful and timely words, and present them with poise, dignity, and inspired optimism, renewed my belief in the power of words to foment change in our world. Regardless of which side of the political divide we may find ourselves, it is impossible to deny that Ms. Gorman’s words were able to bridge that divide and offer hope in what was a difficult time.
In her introduction to the printed version of the poem, Oprah Winfrey wrote:
Everyone who watched came away enhanced with hope and marveling at seeing the best of who we are and can be through the eyes and essence of a twenty-two-year-old, our country’s youngest presidential inaugural poet.
I am in complete agreement.
There are two short excerpts from this incredible poem that I would like to share.
And so we lift our gazes not
To what stands between us,
But to what stands before us.
We close the divide,
Because we know to put
Our future first, we must first
Put our differences aside.
The truth of this statement is self-evident. We cannot advance as a nation, or as a species, unless we learn to stop vilifying those who have differing opinions and beliefs. Focus needs to shift from differences to commonalities.
So while we once asked: How could we
possibly prevail over catastrophe?
We now assert: How could catastrophe
possibly prevail over us?
This past year has been hard for all of us, and our world continues to pose challenges. But challenges, while painful to work through, often provide the spark of heroic inspiration needed to “climb the hill.” Every journey has a point where the odds seem insurmountable. We stand at this threshold. But as Amanda Gorman shows us, we can take that next step and move toward ushering in a better world for all people.
I strongly encourage you to go out and buy a copy of Ms. Gorman’s poem. It is important that we support those creative individuals who inspire us to become the best that we can be.