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History has its eyes on us: LA poet Amanda Gorman seeks right words For Biden’s inauguration

Joe Biden’s inauguration as president of the United States on Wednesday was marked with a stirring poem. Amanda Gorman, 23, read her work “The Hill We Climb” to usher in the new presidency.

“While democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated,” Gorman’s poem read in part. “In this truth, in this faith, we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.” The Harvard grad reportedly finished the work in the hours after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

 

Later that night, she finished the poem, titled “The Hill We Climb.” In it, she writes:

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 is no stranger to having to change her work midstream. Like Biden, who has spoken openly about having stuttered as a child, Gorman has had to overcome a childhood speech impediment of her own. She had difficulty saying certain letters of the alphabet — the letter R was especially tough — which caused her to have to constantly “self-edit and self-police.”

“I’d want to say ‘girls can change the world,’ but I cannot say so many letters in that statement, so I’d say things like ‘young women can shape the globe.'”

Gorman says she never expected to become a “public occasion poet,” but at just 22-years-old the Los Angeles native has already performed everywhere from the Library of Congress to the observation deck at the Empire State Building.

It hasn’t always been an easy path. She remembers when she first started performing in public and worrying about which words she’d even be able to say out loud correctly.

“I would be in the bathroom scribbling five minutes before trying to figure out if I could say ‘Earth’ or if I can say ‘girl’ or if I can say ‘poetry.’ And you know, doing the best with the poem I could.”

But that did little to stunt what has been a meteoric rise. In 2014, Gorman was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at the age of 16 and then the first National Youth Poet Laureate three years later.