The inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on January 20th was full of symbolism and powerful moments. Not only was the country beginning a new chapter after four years of darkness, but it was also welcoming the first female, first black, and first Asian-American VP.
However, if anything stole our hearts, it was the voice and verses of Amanda Gorman, the youngest poet to participate in a U.S. president’s inauguration.
Gorman is a 22-year-old poet from Los Angeles, California. A graduate from Harvard University, she spoke eloquently to the audience and the entire country about hope, about the importance of learning from the past, and about the challenge of building the future.
Gorman opened with a question: “Where can we find the light in this never-ending shade?” signaling despair during a time of continued civil unrest.
The Biden Administration tapped Gorman a couple of weeks ago and tasked her with the mission of creating a poem that reflected the beginning of a new era — and she delivered.
In an interview with The New York Times, she said, “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.”
Thank you! I would be nowhere without the women whose footsteps I dance in. While reciting my poem, I wore a ring with a caged bird—a gift from @Oprah for the occasion , to symbolize Maya Angelou, a previous inaugural poet. Here’s to the women who have climbed my hills before. https://t.co/5Tegd20sko
— Amanda Gorman (@TheAmandaGorman) January 20, 2021
Throughout the last few days, she would write a couple of lines every day. She was halfway done when the attempted insurrection happened on January 6. That night, while every news outlet covered a scary day in democracy, Gorman spent the rest of the night transforming ideas and feelings into verse.
Though there have been poets at inaugurations before, none were faced with the task of performing during a year with so many challenges.
“In my poem, 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,” Gorman told The Times.
One of the lines from her poem that have resonated with the public was when she described herself as a “skinny Black girl, descended from slave raised by a single mother,” who after today could dream of one day also becoming President.
Gorman does not only dream of being a renowned poet; she also dreams of serving as a president in the future. According to Newsweek, in a Harvard Crimson profile from 2018, Gorman was ‘a self-described future candidate for the United States presidency.’
Even Hillary Clinton had some comments, tweeting about looking forward to her presidential run in the future.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 20, 2021
Aside from Biden, the only other presidents who have chosen to have poems read at their inaugurations were Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and John F. Kennedy.
Yesterday’s inauguration not only gave hope for the future of America, it specifically gave hope for women and the strides of progress they’ve made in the last 100 years.