22-year-old Amanda Gorman, the youngest ever inaugural poet and the country's first ever Youth Poet Laureate, wowed the inaugural crowd and earned immediate accolades from Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and many others after delivering her poem "The Hill We Climb" at Joe Biden's inauguration.
Gorman, who grew up in Los Angeles, became Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at age 16, and later National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, while she was studying at Harvard.
As the New York Times reports, Gorman had the poem about half done two weeks ago, on January 6, when she saw the right-wing marauders storm the Capitol — an event that then led to specific lines of the poem, and to her completing it that night.
Obviously a Hamilton fan, Gorman made a couple of references to songs from the musical — she subsequently tweeted at creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who immediately tweeted back that he noticed. In one reference, she quotes from scripture that is quoted by George Washington in the musical, "Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid." And in another, she uses a line that is central to Miranda's show: "History has its eyes on us."
Here is the transcribed poem in full — it has not been published, so this uses USA Today's transcription (and the line breaks are ours and may differ in Gorman's version).
The Hill We Climb
by Amanda Gorman
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 blunders 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.
Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images