During the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20th, 2021, Amanda Gorman performed her poem “The Hill We Climb”. To find light in darkness; the idea that change is hard work, but is always possible, is the foundation of the poem. Gorman argues that the United States is a place that has the grit to struggle, therefore exposing readers to allusion to contemporary society within the United States.
What I find so interesting is how Amanda Gorman views the United States. Though it is clearly a country with many issues, it is not a defeated country, but a country that is still on its way to becoming the powerful oratory that it claims to be! In the onset of the poem, Gorman covers America’s broad history in regards to the struggle for equal rights for all people. She then moves on to cover our more recent history, such as the murder of George Floyd; she associates these moments in history with “shade”. Gorman describes our country as a place in darkness: slowly, but surely reaching the shadow towards the light.
Darkness and Light
Even though our country is heading towards light, Gorman states that not everyone is able to see it yet. She then challenges her readers to be audacious enough to not only see the incoming light, but to be the incoming light for the United States. She states: “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” (Gorman, 1-20). As stated previously, Gorman describes terrible moments in our country as “shade or shadows” that expand, keeping our country from reaching the light, as we are stuck in an expanding shadow. If events like this continue to occur, the shade will continue to keep expanding, therefore causing the United States to remain more and more distant from the light.
She then describes losses in our country as a sea to “wade”, and the atrocious horrors of our country as “the belly of the beast”, explaining everything from the coronavirus to the injustice in regards to race that has taken place in the more recent unrest in the years of our country. Gorman describes the path to get out of darkness as a rigorous and long path, as change does not just occur overnight.
The central message is that if there are enough people that are willing to step up and “be the light” for the United States, our country will cross the shadow into the light in no time!
The United States Divided
Gorman recounts the large political divide that exists within the United States, asking everyone to “lay down our arms so that we can reach out our arms to each other”, stating that no matter what we are and will forever be tied together as long as we are in this country, and that we have endured years of suffering both mental and physical. Gorman then affirms that all of this suffering should bring us together, rather than tear us apart, as Americans have seen “a force that has shattered our nation rather than share it” and tearing apart from each other will only increase that force and cause it to advance.
Even though our country has gone through much turmoil, some of which still continues today, Gorman mentions the clear improvement that our country has experienced, explaining how the United States has “moved closer to the edge of the shadow”. She gives the example of herself to describe the improvement within our country starting with the fact that a “skinny Black girl descended from slaves” is “reciting” at the inauguration for a new president of the United States, and states that she hopes to become president herself one day!
After listening to Amanda Gorman perform “The Hill We Climb” and after reading the book as well, I felt completely inspired to face the issues or the “darkness” within our country, as we cannot go back to the way that things were, we can only move forward towards a new and better America! I have realized that every person plays a part in the United States, as I believe that one day every U.S citizen will come out of the dark, glowing with passion and obtaining the bravery to move America out of the darkness in which it currently sits. Amanda Gorman helped me to feel a sense of passion towards my country once again, as I felt inspired and filled with hope, as I came to the realization that the day is dawning and better times are on their way, as our country is heading towards light. Gorman states how even though America is clearly not perfect, and will never be, we have the potential to make America a place where everyone can join with each other across boundaries, a place where we put down our weapons, a place where instead of clashing, we embrace each other to bring our whole country up as one!