The recent inauguration of US President Biden and Vice President Harris last week wasn’t your normal governmental transition ceremony, by a long shot. What with COVID,
coup attempts rioting at the Capitol, the election of our first woman — and woman of color — to the presidency, a highly divided legislature full of contentious lying verbal sparring over the results of the election, and more, my expectations for the event (the first I’ve ever felt compelled to watch live) were completely wide open.
Although the big focus was obviously on the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next, what really grabbed me (other than the overwhelming appearance of Bernie and his mittens EVERYWHERE afterward), was the reading by Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman of her poem “The Hill We Climb,” almost to the point of overshadowing the swearing in of Vice President Harris and President Biden. It was a magnificent addition to what is usually a kind of stodgy old-boy affair, and the inclusion of Gorman, a young Black female poet, reading her inspiring poem, seemed to me to be a beautiful harbinger of things to come in the US in the near future — unity, diversity, inclusion, and the use of more art and poetry as a potent medium for a hopeful future.
As it turns out, Gorman also lent a hand to the growing climate crisis awareness movement back in December of 2018, when she presented her original poem “Earthrise” as a part of The Climate Reality Project’s “24 Hours of Reality” campaign. In just 4 minutes, this talented young poet makes a compelling case for taking climate action — perhaps even having “climate hope” — while offering a lyrical and youthful homage to the potential that we humans have, if only we work together on the pressing issues we all have in common.
Climate change is the single greatest challenge of our time,
Of this, you’re certainly aware.
It’s saddening, but I cannot spare you
From knowing an inconvenient fact, because
It’s getting the facts straight that gets us to act and not to wait.
So I tell you this not to scare you,
But to prepare you, to dare you
To dream a different reality
I can’t help but to think of a comparison with Greta Thunberg, the teenager whose outspoken activism in favor of taking action on climate issues helped stoke a fire for change in global youth. Although Gorman doesn’t focus specifically on climate change in her work, her ability to put words to work in a beautiful way to inspire others to get up and get going is a powerful force, and one that will with any luck continue to move people’s hearts and minds toward “a more perfect union” in the United States and beyond. And it’s not just about words either, as she told The Harvard Gazette, “It’s not enough for me to write. I have to do right as well.”
Well said, Miss Gorman.
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