There are times when a poem triggers an outburst of emotions. The case in point is “The Hill We Climb” by youth poet Amanda Gorman recited at the inauguration ceremony of U.S. President Joe Biden. “When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?... That even as we grieved, we grew/ That even as we hurt, we hoped”
Looking back on history, humans have always overcome sorrow and pain. The young poet’s take on history and the reality is very optimistic. Her poem became even more stirring after it was known that she is descended from slaves, was raised by a single mom, and overcame a speech impediment. It was because of her speech impediment that Gorman started writing poems. She had problem pronouncing letters, especially the letter R sound, even though she was a native speaker. So she threw herself into books and, as a result, became America’s first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017 and recited a poem that stole the show at the inauguration. It was possible because she climbed the hill, overcoming speech impediment. President Biden himself had speech disorder during childhood.
This is not just a story of an individual. Just like individuals, a country and a community has a hill to climb. This is why the poet tries to overcome difficulties. “There is always light. Only if we are brave enough to see it. There is always light. Only if we are brave enough to be it.” Gorman is telling people that if we keep trying to find light and sometimes muster up the courage to be it, we can always overcome difficulties. This not just applies to America. Courage may be necessary even for us, who are trapped in the shadow of mutual distrust and cynicism. The courage to be light by ourselves.