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The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

Senior Issue 2024
June 5, 2024

The hill we climb, united with Amanda Gorman

By Lea Rabaron
Science Editor

In 1993, the nation stopped short at Maya Angelou’s inaugural poem, “On The Pulse of the Morning,” during president Bill Clinton’s inauguration. 28 years later, Amanda Gorman struck the American people with that same poetic prowess as she recited her momentous poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at President Biden’s inauguration. With her unmatched eloquence and poetic expertise, Maya Angelou broke through infinite layers of racial injustice, ill-conceived stereotypes, and preconceived notions. Through her youthful dynamic and far-reaching statements, Amanda Gorman shattered them. 

In light of recent events (a global pandemic, a controversial election, a second impeachment, and a threat to democracy), it was clear the country needed a powerful voice which could help incite hope—a passionate voice, a young voice. As she stepped up on the podium, Amanda Gorman had just this in mind: to bring about hope, not only through a call for unity, but with a call to action, a call for justice, and a call for peace. Leandra Hall, a prominent 12th grade student at MAST Academy, offered some insight on her influence during these difficult times.

“It was the message of unity found in Gorman’s poem that made it so important. For many years, our country has grown more divided with the pandemic further exacerbating this division. This election has also caused greater hostility in a time when we should be united. Gorman’s poem brought us all together in a meaningful and inspiring way by inviting us to climb this hill to make this world a better place,” she said. 

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The extent of Amanda Gorman’s influence was monumental. As young as 22 years old, she came to serve as a symbol for young people everywhere. Dr. Samantha Bañal, a dual-enrollment teacher at MAST Academy, had a few words to say on Amanda Gorman and her role at the inauguration. 

“There is that moment where a poet can come forward and unite a nation using an artform like poetry, but usually we see it from older, well-established figures. So, I think what’s great about having somebody like Amanda Gorman speak out is her youth,” she said.

 Portrait done by Ghanaian artist Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne, donated to the Harvard Hutchins Center. (Photo courtesy of hutchinscenter.fas.harvard.edu).

Considering the current calls for racial justice and the many BLM protests which we have seen take place over the course of this year and last year, Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem played a key role in bridging communities back together to fight for a common purpose: equality, democracy.  

“We are striving to forge a 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.” 

This excerpt is a perfect representation of Gorman’s message. As a country, we must unite rather than divide and push for a greater future, one which encompasses all and discriminates against none. That is, however, a generational task, and a rather hefty one. This is where Amanda Gorman’s youth played an important role. The future of our country does not lie in the past generations, but in the coming ones. Standing on the podium with her youthful glow, Gorman reminds us that it is not our elder leaders that we must always look to, but our children and our youth. They are the change-makers. Dr. Bañal spoke to this.

“Her youth, I think, was especially important because we look at somebody like Joe Biden and we see a much older man. So I think seeing her, a young woman, reciting the inaugural poem, added a freshness to the inauguration which we all really needed,” she said.

Like many notable figures, Amanda Gorman was faced with challenges along her journey, one of them being her speech impediment. As a young woman, Gorman struggled with a stutter, and was oftentimes unable to pronounce or hear certain words. She especially struggled with the letter ‘r,’ which made it difficult for her to perform on a whim and she usually had to edit her poems up until the very last minute before having to go up on-stage. For Leandra Hall, this served as a personal inspiration.

“I love the fact that she’s honest with her speaking. As someone who at times struggles with a stutter, it relieves me to know that she too struggles with public speaking. It’s part of what makes her poetry so impactful. Her honesty draws me into the world of her poems, and to be quite frank, I don’t think I ever want to leave,” Hall said.

The extent of Amanda Gorman’s influential role did not go by unnoticed. Almost instantly following her recitation at the Capitol, Gorman appeared in multiple televised interviews on platforms such as ‘Good Morning America,’ CNN, and the Ellen Show. She was also recognized by almost every noteworthy newspaper and magazine around the country, and some around the world (The New York Times, Times Magazine, The Guardian, Vogue Magazine, etc.). 

In one of her more prominent interviews, on CNN with Anderson Cooper, Amanda Gorman revealed her mantra, one which she recites before every one of her performances. 

“I am the daughter of Black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world; they call me.” 

A powerful statement for an impressive historical figure. It was after she spoke these words that something nearly inconceivable happened during the interview—Anderson Cooper, the relentless, inscrutable journalist, was left speechless. 

“Wow…um, wow you’re just…you’re awesome, I’m so transfixed,” he mumbled. For many, this was the general reaction upon watching Amanda Gorman perform her poem. Through her posture, her gestures, her ensemble, and her voice—she shined. Hall spoke a few words regarding the importance of her rendition.

“Through her performance, her influence has expanded exponentially. She has an eager audience among people of all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities waiting to hear her voice. I know that she will inspire others to follow in her footsteps wishing to pursue poetry. I am excited to see what comes next from Ms. Gorman. This poem of her’s has put her on the map,” she said.

With the rise of Amanda Gorman, we see the rise of hope, justice, democracy, and unity. Through her words, she carried the weight of uncertainty off the shoulders of the American people and incited change, a movement away from our nation’s past. 

 Standing on the same grounds as Maya Angelou once did 28 years ago, surrounded by the first Woman and Black Vice-President and the first African-American President, Amanda Gorman made history.

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The hill we climb, united with Amanda Gorman