The First and The Fiercest: Gorman’s Poem Packs a Punch


Credit: @amandascgorman on Instagram

Amanda Gorman is the first National Youth Poet Laureate in the United States. In 2017, Urban Word and the Library of Congress named Gorman the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history at the age of 22. Setting that aside, she is also an accomplished writer, scholar, and activist.

Gorman is a cum laude graduate of Harvard University, where she studied Sociology and is an award-winning writer who has written for the New York Times. Gorman has three books forthcoming with Penguin Random House, one of which contains the poem quoted in italics throughout the article.

Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb,” was read by the author herself at President Biden’s inauguration, which was themed around unity. The power in moving forward as a unified force to change the world is a powerful theme that Gorman uses throughout her poem.

“I think unity is important if we want the country to thrive,” Isabella Treglia (‘22) said. “[Gorman] talked about how we could work together to make this country better.”

“Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,

we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one

We will rise from the gold-limbed 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

and every known nook of our nation and

every corner called our country,

our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,

battered and beautiful

When day comes we step out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid”

“Unity is very important because we all have to stick together and help one another  be safe,” Chelsea senior Ashlyn Kasper said. “What stood out in the poem is that she wrote about a lot of things that are going on in the world right now.”

Gorman’s poem did include references to current events, such as the historic attack on the capitol building on January 6, 2021, the musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the rampage of Covid-19 across the U.S.

“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”

But at the same time Gorman discusses newer issues in her poem, she also amplifies deeply embedded problems in our society that still plague America to this day. Racism, sexism, and other forms of hate all make their way to center stage as Gorman shows us a nation that is far from perfect.

“She gives examples of racial and gender inequality,” Kenneth Lynn (‘24) said. “A line that stuck out to me was how she talked about her dream of becoming the president, not reciting for one.”

“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”

“It stood out to me that the poem mentioned how the challenges the country have faced shaped it because that has felt very true these past years,” Lily Snyder (‘24) said. “Everybody in the US has faced unprecedented challenges, and we’ve realized we need to change to become better for them.”

Gorman does place a certain emphasis on being a divided and imperfect society as well as how we and the generations after us can work to fix the country.

“The line ‘somehow we do it’ stood out to me,” Peter Mourad (‘23) said. “It portrays to me that America finds a way to pull through in tough times.”

“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”

“The overlying picture of struggle and triumph stood out to me because I feel like that really defines what we stand for as Americans,” Megan Hayduk (‘23) said. “We are by no means perfect, but we constantly strive for morality, equality, and justice.”