One of the most captivating parts of President Joe Biden’s inauguration was the 22-year-old girl who stood atop the United States capitol like Robert Frost and Maya Angelou famously did before herand recited her own poem: “The Hill We Climb.”
Amanda Gorman is freshly graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and is a National Youth Poet Laureate, who was born and raised in Los Angeles.
Gorman was first offered a spot speaking at the inauguration because First Lady Jill Biden admired her work and suggested her as a speaker to the inauguration committee. She began writing her poem on January 6, 2021, the day of the chaotic riot at the US capitol. Gorman wanted to capture the idea of using her “words to envision a way in which our country [could] still come together and [could] still heal,” Gorman told The New York Times.
Gorman’s inauguration poem is largely about unifying our country and healing our past wounds. About Gorman’s message in “The Hill We Climb,” Harvard-Westlake (HW) English teacher Juliet Seuss said,
“I think anytime that someone has a message of unity and progress that’s a good thing. I was very moved by her poem.”
Now signed to IMG Models, with a performance in the 2021 Super Bowl and a coveted spot on the cover of Time Magazine, Gorman has become a national phenomenon and is very popular among young people. She even announced that she’d like to run for president in the 2036 election.
“The Hill We Climb” sparked an interest among many communities “It’s not often as an English teacher that you’re presented the opportunity to talk about poetry that is being read, understood and heard at a national level,” Suess said. “Poetry usually doesn’t make those kinds of headlines. It was so awesome to have that opportunity to be able to share that poetry with the students of Harvard-Westlake and to see the responses to it, getting emails about how excited people were.”
Grace Coleman ‘24 is an example of Gorman’s popularity among young people. “I feel like Amanda Gorman’s poetry is very powerful and thought provoking, and having such an incredible writer and speaker at the inauguration really made the day feel special,” Coleman said. “I think her works have so much meaning and are incredibly inspiring to everyone.”
There are ways we can apply the message Gorman has to the nation in our school community. Sasha Lee ‘24 talked about the things we can do in relation to Gorman’s goals.
“I feel that it is important to appreciate Gorman’s message but I think it is even more important that we take inspiration from them at Harvard-Westlake,” Lee said. “Like Gorman said, there is work to be done. For example, taking a step further than land acknowledgments and including more detailed histories of indigenous people in order to help our community become more culturally empathetic.”
Apart from being a truly inspiring poet, Gorman’s words should be taken into account throughout the country, especially at HW. Gorman’s last lines of “The Hill We Climb” remind us of this, “There is always light / if only we’re brave enough to see it / if only we’re brave enough to be it.”