Amanda Gorman: Everything you need to know

Poet Amanda Gorman was praised for her performance at Joe Biden's inauguration – here's how you can teach about her

Grainne Hallahan

Coronavirus schools

Amanda Gorman wowed the world when she performed her poem The Hill We Climb at Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony this week.

Here's all you need to know about the US youth poet laureate: 

Who is Amanda Gorman? 

The 22-year-old Californian graduated from Harvard University before becoming the US' first national youth poet laureate in 2017. As well as writing poetry, Gorman is the founder of the non-profit organisation One Pen One Page, a writing programme for young women.

Gorman was chosen to recite a poem at Joe Biden’s inauguration as president, following in the footsteps of the likes of Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, who were also inaugural poets.

In the poem, Gorman calls for change, asking that we “leave behind a country better than the one we were left behind”.

What were teachers’ reactions to her performance at Joe Biden’s inauguration? 

Teachers in both the UK and US were full of praise for her performance.

Why should you tell your students about her?

Amanda Gorman may not have a huge body of work behind her yet, but that isn’t a reason to not introduce her to your class. 

The Hill We Climb has been positively received by literary critics, with the BBC’s arts editor describing it as a “beautifully paced, well-judged poem for a special occasion” that “will live long beyond the time and space of the moment”.

Gorman talks about herself in the poem: “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.” What a great inspirational story to share with your students.

If you’d like a lesson to use with your class about Amanda Gorman and her poem, then PBS has put a lesson together for you to use.

WATCH: Amanda Gorman performing 'The Hill We Climb'

Here is the full text of the poem:

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 our 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.
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 it 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 golden hills of the west.
We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked 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, 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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Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan is Tes recruitment editor and senior content writer at Tes

Find me on Twitter @heymrshallahan

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