Inaugural Poem Brightens Students’ Hopes For America

“When day comes we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?”

National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman raised this question as she delivered the inaugural poem on January 20. At just 22 years of age, Gorman was the youngest inaugural poet in American history, inspiring students across the globe. Whether it was the vibrant yellow Prada suit she wore, or the eloquence of her prose, Gorman answered her initial question: “There is always light.”

In the wake of the Inauguration, such light was radiated onto Latin’s own student body.

Junior Kazi Stanton-Thomas emphasized the significance of Gorman’s inaugural poem. “When contrasted with the oldest president of America, Gorman stands out with the power and dignity to not only occupy this space as a youth but a young Black woman,” Kazi said.

Sophomore Alena Brandt added, “Gorman’s poem demonstrated how the United States is slowly progressing and highlighting the voices that would have been silenced 50 years ago.”

McKenna McMurray, a junior, noted, “Gorman herself says a lot about American progress.”

Many students feel that as a young woman of color, Gorman, by her very presence, was a manifestation of the optimism and social advancement called for in her prose. For McKenna, Gorman’s poem proved that “no matter how much hate people hold and how those same people attempt to hinder progress, those that hold hope and acceptance prevail.”

Gorman’s personal story of triumph is one that not only appealed to individuals, but called attention to injustice. She said, “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.” While the “hill” Gorman referenced throughout the poem remains a generalized metaphor for American hardship, conceivably, the greatest mountain before the nation is that which she described: the fight for racial equity.

As Kazi said—and as proven by the Survivors of Latin Instagram account from this past summer—the Latin community must also climb the hill toward racial equality. “The excuse is that it’s ‘always been this way’ or ‘they’ve always been that way,’ as if change is impossible… but it truly doesn’t have to be that way,” Kazi said. Just as Gorman put it, “It’s the past we step into and how we repair it” that will define the nation.

Along with emphasizing the necessity of taking action against injustice, Gorman illuminated a shining path toward a future of unity. “We lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us,” she said. “We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.”

Students agree that the path toward a more inclusive country must first be paved with togetherness. “It’s often easier to see the differences between you and someone else and not make an effort to even hear another person because of those differences,” Junior Jaden Annacone said. “But when you look past those differences, you’ll see that most people are actually really similar.” In Alena’s eyes, only then can the community “work to better their actions and thoughts.”

And so, even within a time fueled by division and partisanship, “The new dawn blooms as we free it,” Gorman remarked, underscoring that with each new day, there is new light.

“The beauty of each American story,” McKenna said, “is that while some are tragic and some are fortunate, in the end, we all come out victorious when we work together.”

“By focusing on peace and love, rather than the hate that stands before us, Gorman made a really powerful point,” Jaden noted.

Reflecting on the poem, McKenna said, “I felt an overwhelming sense of hope and joy for the future of myself, and the future of our nation as a whole.”

The inaugural poem of 2021 was not only a historical moment in American history, but a moment in which students grasped the motivation for climbing all hills of injustice—to reach the light. “This one poem … repictures what it means to be an American,” Kazi said. With a newfound hope for the future, students are now committed to not only remember the promise of the nation and of Latin, but to be “brave enough to be it.”