August 5, 2021

“The Hill We Climb, If Only We Dare It”: Watch Amanda Gorman, Youngest Inaugural Poet in U.S. History

4 min read

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to poet Amanda Gorman. In January, she became the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history when she spoke at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. She was 22 years old when she read “The Hill We Climb,” a poem she finished right after the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th. This is Amanda Gorman.

AMANDA GORMAN: Mr. President, Dr. Biden,Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff,Americans, and the World:

When day comes, we ask ourselves:Where can we find lightIn 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 witnessedA nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a timeWhere 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 committedTo all cultures, colors, characters,And conditions of man.And so we lift our gazes notTo what stands between us,But what stands before us.We close the divide,Because we know to putOur future first, we must firstPut our differences aside.

We lay down our armsSo 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 victoryWon’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.That is the promised 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 heirsOf such a terrifying hour.But within it we’ve found the powerTo 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 inertiaWill 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,And 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-limned hills of the West!We will rise from the windswept Northeast, where our forefathers first realized revolution!We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states!We will rise from the sunbaked South!

We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover,In every known nook of our nation,In every corner called our country,Our people, diverse and dutiful.We’ll 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.

AMY GOODMAN: Poet Amanda Gorman, reading her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration in January. At 22, Amanda Gorman became the youngest inaugural poet.
When we come back, we’ll speak to Emory University professor Carol Anderson about her new book, _The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. Stay with us.