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Amanda Gorman: The youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration

Achieving Woman - By Derrick Oluoch | January 21st 2021 at 11:20:00 GMT +0300
Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet (Courtesy)

Amanda Gorman is only the sixth and the youngest poet to ever perform at a United States presidential inauguration.

Ms. Gorman, 22, graced the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington on Wednesday January 20, where she recited her poem, The Hill We Climb.

She was born and raised in Los Angeles by her mum, a middle school teacher, and her two siblings.

Ms. Gorman who has had a speech impediment since childhood studied sociology at Harvard, and became a youth delegate for the United Nations at 16.

She is also America’s first-ever national youth poet laureate (2017).

Ms. Gorman reciting her poem 'The Hill We Climb' at the presidential inauguration on Wednesday Jan 20 (Courtesy)

Later this year, Viking Books for Young Readers will publish Gorman’s debut poetry collection, also titled The Hill We Climb, targeting teenage and adult readers.

Poetry aside, she says that she has bigger plans for the future, as she told The New York Times back in 2017, she intends to run for president in 2036.

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Ms. Gorman has performed for luminaries including Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Yousafzai.

Her reading during Biden’s inauguration was widely praised. Oprah Winfrey couldn’t hide her pride as she tweeted “I never been prouder to see another young woman rise.”

Former First Lady Michelle Obama also praised Gorman urging her to “keep shinning” and that she “can’t wait to see what you do next.”

She performed alongside entertainment big shots including Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga at the inauguration that was themed – America United.

As a poet performing at a presidential inauguration, Gorman joined the likes of Elizabeth Alexander who performed at Pres. Barack Obama’s inauguration, and Maya Angelou who read at Pres. Bill Clinton’s inauguration.

Robert Frost was the first inaugural poet when he read at Pres. John F Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.

Here’s the full text of Ms Gorman's poem at Biden’s presidential inauguration:

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 just-ice
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 a 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
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 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 gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and 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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