Amanda Gorman


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Author: Peter Stevens
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How a 22-year-old L.A. native became Biden’s inauguration poet By Julia BarajasStaff Writer Jan. 17, 2021 10 AM UPDATEDJan. 20, 2021 | 9:57 AM Like most of us, Amanda Gorman has been cooped up at home because of the pandemic. In her case, that’s meant staying in her West Los Angeles apartment binge-watching “The Great British Baking Show.” Unlike most of us, she got some very exciting news recently via Zoom: She’d been handpicked to read a poem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The first lady, Jill Biden, is a fan of her work and convinced the inaugural committee that Gorman would be a perfect fit. Gorman, all of 22, became the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles at age 16 in 2014 and the first national youth poet laureate three years later. On Wednesday, she became the youngest poet to write and recite a piece at a presidential inauguration, following in the considerably more experienced footsteps of Maya Angelou and Robert Frost. Her precocious path was paved with both opportunities and challenges, an early passion for language and the diverse influences of her native city. Gorman grew up near Westchester but spent the bulk of her time around the New Roads School, a socioeconomically diverse private school in Santa Monica. Her mother, Joan Wicks, teaches middle school in Watts. Shuttling among the neighborhoods gave Gorman a window onto the deep inequities that divide ZIP Codes. “Having a mom who is a teacher had a huge impact on me,” said Gorman, who witnessed her ability to empower young people through language. Long before she began reading her own poetry aloud in grand spaces for grand occasions — from the Fourth of July to the inauguration of a new president of Harvard University — Gorman was falling in love, simultaneously, with the written and spoken word. "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 We've learned that quiet isn't always peace And the norms and notions of what just is Isn’t always just-ice And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it Somehow we do it Somehow we've weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished 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 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 a union with purpose To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us but what stands before us We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside We lay down our arms so 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 victory won’t lie in the blade But in all the bridges we’ve made That is the promise to glade The hill we climb If only we dare It's 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 heirs of such a terrifying hour but within it we found the power to 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 inertia will 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-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 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"

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