AMANDA GORMAN. Am I right?
I don’t know about you, but it’s not every day that a 23-year-old comes along and totally rocks my world. Until inauguration day, I had never heard of Amanda Gorman, not to mention the fact that we had a National Youth Poet Laureate…of which she is the very first!
Mind you, this post has NOTHING to do with politics; it has to do with humanity. It has to do with humanity in the sense that I’m blown away by how the arts can truly serve as a healing, cleansing power. For those of you, like me, who watched the news on inauguration day until their eyes bled, one of the things that struck me most was how often the arts were woven into the day’s events. There were oodles of different types of media that served as tributes, symbols, actions, and messaging. There were songs to be sung; there was fashion to be worn; there was live music to fill the air. Something I never knew? The new President and Vice President are awarded ceremonial “gifts” from Congress. While this is typically done at a luncheon, because of COVID, they had an abridged version in the rotunda of the Capitol. One of the gifts was a gorgeous painting on loan from the Smithsonian that Dr. Jill Biden picked out herself for her hubby, er, the President. It was called, “Landscape with Rainbow” and was painted by a notable Black painter from around the time of the Civil War. It was chosen as a symbol of hope and brighter days.
Sure, we heard JLo and Garth and Gaga belt out gorgeous renditions of meaningful songs and anthems. And they were terrific.
BUT THEN THERE WAS AMANDA GORMAN.
Amanda Gorman came up to the podium with all the grace and poise of a much older, seasoned orator. She beamed brightly in her lemon-yellow coat while she adorned us with her imagery of brightness, lightness, and healing. She reminded us that there is much work to be done. She accompanied her poetry reading with eloquent hand gestures--part sign language, part theater production, all beauty. She made us think; she made us dream and hope; she transfixed us with her words. Her cadence was something straight out of Hamilton meets Angelou. I was completely transported by her words; she had me at the title, “The Hill We Climb.”
I saw an interview with her and Anderson Cooper later that evening. She told him she’s not necessarily moved or inspired by imagery but rather the written and spoken word. She said she firmly believes that there is power in ALL words. LET THAT SINK IN FOR A MOMENT. We’ve heard that said before but perhaps it has never rung truer than these past four years. We don’t need to rehash the past. It’s embedded in our memory. It is now our responsibility to use our words as a force for good to act as guardians for the future.
There are many times when I send out a post and readers graciously comment on my musings. You tell me how my words make you think and feel. I often hear from people I don’t even know, and I’m humbled by the fact that I can move people in ways in which I wasn’t even aware. All the arts have always moved me on a visceral, soulful level. But yesterday may have been the very first time that I listened to the spoken word with fresh ears. What a gift. And how fitting to start a new era with a new appreciation for a new medium.
Amanda Gorman, you are indeed a national treasure. We salute you with our gratitude and we welcome you to recite your poems whenever you feel the country needs a spiritual lift. I know that I, along with millions of others, will be following you closely. Heck, if there is ever an event where you’ll be on stage reading the phone book, I'll be the first in line to buy a ticket. I have a sneaking suspicion that if anyone can move me to tears reciting listings for plumbers, painters, and power-washers…my money’s on you.
Here’s to new beginnings with whatever words resonate with you.