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On a day filled with history-making moments, Amanda Gorman became a star.
At 22 years old, the Los Angeles native became the youngest inaugural poet ever as she recited her original work “The Hill We Climb,” a poem completed Jan. 6 following the violent attempted siege of the United States Capitol. Today, exactly two weeks later, Gorman stood at the podium to deliver those words in front of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris — the first Black and South Asian woman to ever hold the post — former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and stars like Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga.
Elsewhere, the world was watching as Gorman followed in the footsteps of an exclusive group of inaugural poets that includes Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Miller Williams, Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco. Wearing a caged bird ring to honor Angelou, gifted by Oprah Winfrey, Gorman acknowledged discord and leaned on hope while also revealing what the moment meant to her as a descendant of slaves. “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 hours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished,” she said. “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.”
Before she delivered the final line — “for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it” — the reception online was electric as praise poured in from all corners. Lin-Manuel Miranda, for one, picked up on the Hamilton references Gorman peppered throughout her poem. The section “history has its eyes on us” is in reference to the Hamilton track “History Has its Eyes on You.” In another section, she writes, “Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree,” a section similar to one from the song “One Last Time” as performed in the original Broadway production by Christopher Jackson in the role of George Washington.
“You were perfect,” tweeted Miranda, a man who knows much about word choice and delivery. “Perfectly written, perfectly delivered. Every bit of it. Brava!” Hamilton became a trending topic on Twitter shortly after their exchange. Miranda’s Hamilton collaborator Alex Lacamoire also chimed in, “Ahhhhhh I heard those lines and wondered, ‘is she a HAM fan’?? Thank you for your exceptionally beautiful poem today!”
Gorman’s social following also skyrocketed. As of press time, her Instagram following was nearing 1 million, while on Twitter she was up to 555,900 followers. Gorman, previously named a Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and the first National Youth Poet Laureate, wore a look by Prada complemented by the ring as well as Winfrey-gifted earrings. Gorman confirmed their friendship to Vogue, saying that “every single time I get a text from [Oprah] I fall on the floor.” Winfrey was among the first to congratulate Gorman after she finished at the Capitol. “I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava,” tweeted Oprah Winfrey. “Maya Angelou is cheering — and so am I.”
Gorman replied to Winfrey, offering gratitude for sharing in the moment. “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,” she posted.
The Obamas both responded Wednesday afternoon with the former president posting, “On a day for the history books, [Amanda Gorman] delivered a poem that more than met the moment. Young people like her are proof that ‘there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it; if only we’re brave enough to be it.'” Michelle praised Gorman’s “strong and poignant words” for serving as a reminder of the power “we each hold in upholding” democracy. “Keep shining, Amanda! I can’t wait to see what you do next.”
Gorman’s climb will surely hit overdrive now. The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that she is represented by powerhouse agency WME. Her résumé includes the book Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem with pictures by Loren Long (due out Sept. 21 from Penguin Kids). She is also set to release The Hill We Climb: Poems on Sept. 21. Following the inauguration, Gorman tweeted that both her books have now topped the Amazon best-sellers list. She has other ties to Hollywood through WriteGirl, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that helps teens discover their voices through creative writing. Per an email from WriteGirl, Gorman joined at 14 and attended monthly writing workshops and mentorship sessions. WriteGirl’s notable volunteers include Liz Meriwether (New Girl), Jane Anderson (Olive Kitteridge), actress Clare Sera (The Princess Diaries), Josann McGibbon (Runaway Bride), singer-songwriter Michelle Lewis and screenwriter Abby Anderson.
Gorman also found an instant fan in fellow Angeleno Regina King. “You give me hope,” posted the actress and director. “You are grace personified. You captured the history of this country and what democracy should mean beautifully. Thank you for showing up for LA. Thank you for showing up for this country.”
Below is Gorman’s inaugural poem in full and video of her reciting it.
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 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 hours 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 lighten 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 stepped 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 deception. 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 birth right.
So let us leave behind a country better than 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 through the gold-limbed hills in 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 sun-baked South. We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover, in every known nook of our nation, in 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.
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) January 20, 2021
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
You @TheAmandaGorman give me hope. You are grace personified. You captured the history of this country and what democracy should mean beautifully. Thank you for showing up for LA. Thank you for showing up for this country. #LAnative
— Regina King (@ReginaKing) January 20, 2021
Photo credit: Rob Carr pic.twitter.com/C2cf0U5iEj
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) January 20, 2021
On a day for the history books, @TheAmandaGorman delivered a poem that more than met the moment. Young people like her are proof that "there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it; if only we're brave enough to be it." pic.twitter.com/mbywtvjtEH
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 20, 2021
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 20, 2021
If the timeline is any indication, we are all willing to die to protect Amanda Gorman. #InaugurationDay
— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) January 20, 2021
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