February 17, 2021

In perhaps the single most inspiring public moment our country has witnessed in years, National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman delivered her own poem, The Hill We Climb, during President Biden’s inauguration on January 20. Despite her relatively young 22 years of age, Gorman delivered both words of great wisdom and a mature performance of grace and artistry.

Poems, often written in winding, metaphoric ways, can be challenging to interpret. Gorman’s art, however, is unmistakably clear. Her words are as direct as they are beautiful and are meticulously woven together into masterpiece. For her audience, there is no overlooking or misunderstanding the message – and now we move forward with this new, unmistakable enlightenment as part of our own perspective.

Many verses from The Hill We Climb will stand alone in their impact and will serve as references for years to come:

We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man

Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made

For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

Perhaps some of Gorman’s most powerful words are:

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace

In this moment, Gorman’s poem forges a deep connection to some of the most brilliant minds and leaders that have come before her, who also have reminded generations of the connection between silence and complicity:

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence. ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. ~ Elie Wiesel

If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity. ~ Albert Einstein

With her words and her delivery, Gorman has become our modern-day example – what we say, and equally how and when we say it, matters.