Introducing Amanda Gorman: Power Through Poetry

“The Hill We Climb” is inspirational

Introducing Amanda Gorman: Power Through Poetry

Maeve Lawler, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Amanda Gorman has risen to the forefront of the artistic community after reciting a poem at Joseph R. Biden’s inauguration titled, “The Hill We Climb.” Gorman is America’s first Youth Poet Laureate, receiving this title in 2016. 

As she stood in front of the public eye on January 20th, with the sun shining upon her smiling face, Gorman’s words echoed in the ears of Americans. 

It is through her beautiful words, tone, and movement that the nation could be touched. Her words reached not only the audience sitting on the steps of the Capitol but into the audience of the nation, the audience of the globe. Together, we felt the force of her words upon our chests, evoking feelings of sadness, passion, joy, and hope.  

Each verse seemed to be a melody of passion, politics, and personality. I would like to highlight some of Gorman’s words that impacted me most:

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

In this verse, Gorman alludes to the violence and injustice America has “braved,” not just in the past four years, but in America’s journey since its founding. She reminds each of us that what “just is” is not always “just-ice,” encouraging us to be critical of the world surrounding us. Gorman prompts each American to understand that what seems normal is not always moral. Gorman inspires me to move past the silent and painful coping of injustice, and toward a future filled with noise. The noise of justice and peace. Joy and understanding. Empathy and promise. 

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

Gorman connects to a larger audience by integrating the essence of her personal story into her lines. She refers to herself as a “skinny Black girl” who has descended from slaves and was raised by a single mom. Her story aligns with the experiences of many Black Americans who have felt marginalized and discriminated against for centuries. By calling attention to this, the entire nation must face our racist past and present, understanding its impact and how we can foster a permanent change for a better future. By announcing her dream of becoming president, Gorman calls attention to the dreams of countless other young Americans–particularly Black females. Gorman’s presence at the podium marks the start of a historical change for the nation, advancing inclusion, representation, and respect for all. Gorman told the New York Times she plans to make her presidential dream a reality saying, “This is a long, long, faraway goal, but 2036 I am running for office to be president of the United States. So you can put that in your iCloud calendar.”

We lay down our arms

so we can reach out our arms

to one another

We seek harm to none and harmony for all

Gorman draws attention to the double meaning of the word “arm.” She envisions a unified America, where we put aside our weapons and hatred and bring forth our warmth and hearts. Each of us can both literally and symbolically “reach out our arms” to show our respect and dignity, to help our nation heal its divisions, and to soothe its tensions. We can listen to Gorman’s words of unification with the intent of creating peace and harmony: 

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

In the line, “The hill we climb,” Gorman directly addresses the title of her poem, symbolizing the tiresome journey to justice. But it is the hill we climb, a journey we face together as a nation. At the end of this journey, when America has reached what seems to be the top of the “hill,” I hope to see a view of a nation that is overflowing with color, education, innovation, and welcomeness. Maybe “the hill we climb” is a continuing journey for each generation to create progress and fulfill promise. But just because the journey is continuous, does not mean we should not fight to go farther. Gorman says that being American is “more than a pride” but rather the past we put ourselves in. As citizens, we must take Gorman’s words seriously. We must analyze our past and its impact. We must work to repair the present to improve the future. 

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

After the attacks on the Capitol on January 6th, Gorman was halfway through writing her inaugural poem. It was after she watched the violence and hatred unravel that she became inspired to promptly finish her poem that night. She told the New York Times, “I’m not going to in any way gloss over what we’ve seen.” Gorman addresses the attack as a shattering force that “very nearly succeeded.” She addresses the fact that while our democracy can be delayed, it cannot be defeated. Her inspirational words brought a feeling of strength and power to the audience, as we remember the true value of democracy’s strength and its ability to prevail.  

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

Gorman acknowledges that America is not perfect, yet has the potential to be better. When we merge our energies, our “might with right,” we create an improved future. We make the conscious choice to create love as a legacy, as opposed to hatred. 

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

With this verse, Gorman paints an image of Americans after a period of work to heal and grow. She creates a feeling of unification by addressing every “nook of our nation” with its diverse and unique population. Most importantly, Gorman recognizes that the journey to rebuild may be strenuous, yet despite this challenge, we will “emerge, battered and beautiful.” 

To read “The Hill We Climb” in its entirety, visit: