As the world watched the star-studded and historic inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, poet Amanda Gorman was the one who stole the show.
On Wednesday, Gorman, 22, became the youngest inaugural poet and the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate. Her bright statement-making yellow Prada coat and cherry red headband shined almost as brightly as the country she envisioned as she recited her poem “The Hill We Climb.” The original piece called for people to turn pain into strength and urged listeners to look forward while also being informed by the past.
Following her performance, social media was abuzz.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering — and so am I,” Oprah tweeted. The talk show host sent Gorman a pair of gold hoops with a hanging diamond as well as a birdcage ring from Of Rare Origin as a gesture to honor previous inauguration poet Maya Angelou (Oprah sent Angelou a blue Chanel coat and gloves for former President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration).
After Lin-Manuel Miranda congratulated Gorman, they exchanged messages about the Hamilton references in Gorman’s piece.
Stars including Common, Bette Midler and Megan Rapinoe also sounded off.
Other social media users shared their sentiments as well, heaping praise on the young talent and her work.
“Amanda Gorman is amazing!!! All of the Black girl magic on that stage from young to old was earth shaking. Well done, Beautiful and Brilliant,” one person wrote.
Black women, in particular, celebrated the moment and lifted up Gorman.
Gorman was selected to read at the inauguration after first lady Jill Biden saw a video of her reading her poem "An American Lyric” at the Library of Congress in 2017. Prior to Inauguration Day, the Los Angeles native revealed in an interview with the New York Times that she was having trouble finishing her poem.
“I had this huge thing, probably one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my career. It was like, if I try to climb this mountain all at once, I’m just going to pass out,” she said.
Then a mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 and Gorman told the Times she stayed up late that night and tapped into the teachings of great speakers from the past, particularly ones who were known for their leadership during grave turmoil, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglas and even Abraham Lincoln.
“We have to confront these realities if we’re going to move forward, so that’s also an important touchstone of the poem,” she added. “There is space for grief and horror and hope and unity, and I also hope that there is a breath for joy in the poem, because I do think we have a lot to celebrate at this inauguration.”
Gorman has also expressed the importance of the treasured art form as not only a means of entertainment but a force for good.
“Poetry is a weapon,” she said in an interview with CBS News. “It is an instrument of social change and poetry is one of the most political arts out there because it demands that you rupture and destabilize the language in which you’re working with. Inherently, you are pushing against the status quo. And so for me, it’s always existed in that tradition of truth-telling.”
Read Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb” in its entirety below:
Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world: 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, 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. And 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 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 blenders become their burdens but one thing is certain: If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy in 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 winds swept north, east where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rinsed 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 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.
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