The best performance at Joe Biden’s inauguration was done by the youngest person on the stage. Show it to your kids.
Joe Biden delivered a solid if blissfully uneventful inaugural speech and his inauguration ceremony featured performances by Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, and Garth Brooks, three musicians who’ve sold over 384 million albums and have had long, storied, decades-long careers between the three of them. But it was 22-year-old first-ever Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s reading of “The Hill We Climb,” a piece she wrote for the occasion, who outshined them all.
Gorman, who became the Youth Poet Laureate at 16, is the youngest poet to ever perform at the inauguration of a U.S. president, an honor also held by legends like Maya Angelou and Robert freakin’ Frost. In an interview with the New York Times, she detailed the thought process behind her piece, which she completed after the coup at the Capitol on January 6.
“In my poem, I’m not going to in any way gloss over what we’ve seen over the past few weeks and, dare I say, the past few years. But what I really aspire to do in the poem is to be able to use my words to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal,” she said. “It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”
Gorman did research when composing her poem, reading Lincoln and King, among others, and speaking to the poets who delivered their work at Obama’s inaugurations. The final product, as she described it, reflected the dual emotional experiences many Americans have recently been going through.
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.
Gorman’s performance attracted plenty of praise, and she gained more than 200,000 followers on Twitter in the minutes after she finished speaking. If you’re among those inspired by Gorman’s words, the good news is that her debut poetry collection, also titled The Hill We Climb, and a picture book for children, Change Sing, are coming out on September 21. Watch her stunning performance below — and make sure you show your kids.