Poet Amanda Gorman, 22, captures ‘bruised, but whole’ U.S. at Biden, Harris inauguration

Inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States
Amanda Gorman recites a poem during the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

January 21, 2021

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Amanda Gorman, the youngest poet in U.S. history to mark the transition of presidential power, offered a hopeful vision for a deeply divided country on Wednesday with her poem “The Hill We Climb”.

Gorman, 22, a Los Angeles resident, joined the ranks of previous inaugural poets Robert Frost, Maya Angelou and Elizabeth Alexander, with a powerful performance at the swearing-in of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

“Being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it,” Gorman said, in a short poem that was greeted with a hail of critical acclaim on social media.

“We will not march back to what was. We move to what shall be, a country that is bruised, but whole. Benevolent, but bold. Fierce and free.”

Speaking on the steps of the U.S. Capitol just two weeks after a violent mob laid siege to the seat of American government with Confederate flags, pipe bombs and a noose, Gorman said Americans could rise above the hatred.

“While democracy can be temporarily delayed, it can never be permanently defeated,” Gorman said. “Let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left,” Gorman said. “We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.”

“The new dawn blooms as we free it,” said Gorman, who was named the first U.S. National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017.

John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also had poets read at their inauguration.

Critical acclaim poured from across the country and the political spectrum, including Republican strategist Lincoln Project and Stacey Abrams the Democratic organizer and gubernatorial candidate from Georgia, who said, “Amanda Gorman’s message serves as an inspiration to us all.”

Singer Sheryl Crow tweeted: “If the future looks like inaugural poet laureate Amanda Gorman, we are in good shape. Wise and inspiring.”

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Additional reporting by Makini Brice and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Heather Timmons and Richard Chang)