Amanda Gorman, at just the age of 22, became the youngest poet to read at an inauguration. Goodman cemented her place in history as she stood at the podium of the 59th Inauguration as she read “The Hill We Climb,” which she wrote in honor of the occasion at the U.S. Capitol. It was a message of unity, especially against the backdrop of the violence that took place just two weeks ago after pro-Trump supporters sieged the Capitol.
Gorman, wearing a yellow coat and her braided hair swept up, spoke before President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and the other dignitaries such as former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. They were joined by their wives, elected officials, and stars in the ceremony on Wednesday.
The poem read in part:
“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.
“I’m not going to in any way gloss over what we’ve seen over the past few weeks and, dare I say, the past few years. But what I really aspire to do in the poem is to be able to use my words to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal,” she told the outlet before the Inauguration. “It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”
Her smooth oratory and poise quickly drew praise on social media, drawing comparisons to the late Maya Angelou. The famed poet’s literary works inspired a generation, and In 1993, Angelou read “The Pulse of the Morning” during President Clinton’s first Inauguration on January 20, 1993.
“I can’t help but think that Maya Angelou is looking down from Heaven proud at the #BlackGirlMagic that is Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman,” theGrio’s April Ryan mused.
In a special nod to Angelou, media titan Oprah Winfrey reached out to Gorman and provided her the earrings she wore and a caged bird ring in tribute. Stacey Abrams also noted that Gorman’s “message serves as an inspiration to us all.”
Prior to the historic speech, she spoke to NPR about how her speech impediment as a child made it difficult for her to pronounce certain words. It is a shared trait she has in common with President Biden, who stuttered as a child. Gorman noted that poetry helped her to overcome the impediment.
“Having an arena in which I could express my thoughts freely was just so liberating that I fell head over heels, you know, when I was barely a toddler,” she told the NPR.
Gorman also drew upon the inspiration of Angelou.
“Maya Angelou was mute growing up as a child and she grew up to deliver the inaugural poem for President Bill Clinton,” she says. “So I think there is a real history of orators who have had to struggle with a type of imposed voicelessness, you know, having that stage in the inauguration.”
Story & Photo Credit: Stephanie Guerilus/thegrio