A Speechwriter’s Thoughts
A few days after President Joseph Biden delivered his inaugural address, friends and business acquaintances asked for my opinion on the speech. Some of them were sure I would write an article about it, thus share some perspectives from my vantage point.
Instead, I am sitting at my desk on a weekday afternoon with a cup of Earl Grey tea and matching saucer, writing about the inaugural poem of Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States. Before we get to the poem, here’s a brief background on Ms. Gorman: On March 7, 2021, the young lady will be 23 years. She grew up in Los Angeles, California, was awarded the Youth Poet Laureate title in 2017, at age 19. She attended Harvard University. Reciting her poem The Hill We Climb, Amanda Gorman became the youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration – January 20, 2021
Now my brief thoughts of the much herald poem:
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 is
Isn’t always just-ice
The first stanza is perfect for the setting, considering the circumstances surrounding the inauguration (Coronavirus, insurrection, the ex-president’s attitude). It’s a good lead-in; we know what the remaining words are about and anxiously await their arrival.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it before 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
The poet makes it personal. She gives the audience insight into herself.
Towards the middle:
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 terrifying hour
But within it, we found the power to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves So while once asked,
How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe? Now we assert
How could catastrophe prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was but move to what shall be
The words above would be stated and included in a non-poem speech body. As Amanda Gorman does throughout the poem, the author displays heightened eloquences and gives hope that we won’t remain in desolate bounds, but the future is bright for us.
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
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.
In her conclusion, Ms. Gorman continues the rhythmic tone prevalent throughout the poem and provides a call to action that challenges the audience to be more and better than we have become, and not settle for the status quo, not only see the light but be the light. The articulate young lady spoke passionately, launching pertinent and engaging words. She was well-rehearsed and prepared for this momentous event. The youth poet was patient; she didn’t rush through the phrases.
The poetic utterings are uplifting, inspiring, and elevating. We, as a nation in this particular time, need such words. Consequently, our lives are enhanced.
You may read the full poem in your browser by keystroking The Hill We Climb.