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Transcript: Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem was full of light and reconciliation

Poised and immaculately dressed in a canary yellow Prada coat, inaugural poet Amanda Gorman followed in the footsteps of beloved literary figures such as Maya Angelou and Robert Frost when she recited “The Hill We Climb” during President Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony earlier this morning. Gorman sought to speak "to everyone" but not "for everyone" with her poem, and it was a lyrical acknowledgement of challenging times that still burned with hope for “a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished."

While choosing her own words, Gorman consulted the speeches of great leaders and orators like Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. to understand how "rhetoric has been used for good” in times of despair and division. The poet's message echoed that of the new president himself, who wove themes of unity, healing, grief, and hope throughout his speech.

But there was something extra special about watching Gorman address the nation from that podium, in her own words, "a skinny black girl descended from slaves" who dreamed of "becoming president only to find herself reciting for one." She represents the possibilities wrapped up in this inauguration — and particularly, that of Vice President Kamala Harris. The future already feels, in a small but real way, brighter.

Read the full text of Gorman's inaugural poem below:

Amanda Gorman, "The Hill We Climb" (2020)

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 justice

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 lighten the blade

But in all the bridges we’ve made

That is the promise to glade

The hill to 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 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

In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country

Our people diverse and beautiful will emerge, battered and beautiful

When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame

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