‘The Hill We Climb’: An Analytical Reflection

Isabella Ernsberger, Reporter

In her poem she recited at Joe Biden’s Inauguration, ‘The Hill We Climb,’ Amanda Gorman discussed topics of justice, growth, and unity. Freshly free from a presidency that left so many Americans hungry for change, Gorman’s poem was the perfect way to enter this new chapter with a leader that prioritizes justice and respect. While Gorman’s poem addressed the nation, and all that we have witnessed and gone through over the last term, as I read it I found some stanzas that I could personally relate to, and apply to my own life.


“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.”

Amanda opens the poem with this stanza. While this stanza may reference multiple situations, I’m choosing to relate this to the pandemic. Quarantine has taken its toll on all of us, to say the absolute least. The way we’ve lived our lives for the last 10 months has completely altered life as we once knew it, and has presented challenges to all involved. The light is something that is difficult to find when everyday is the same as the one before, the shade of unchanging routine and uncertainty. The loss of jobs, lives, and normalcy is carried on everyone’s shoulders, and all we can do is wait for normal life to greet us again. 

Personally, I can relate this to my experience with quarantine, loneliness, and anxiety. These things have been especially prevalent in the time of COVID. With life at a standstill, motivation is lacking, while tasks pile up. A sense of urgency to get things done is met with feeling a lack of purpose, making it difficult to manage responsibilities and get tasks done. This feeling can be compared to the “never-ending shade” that Amanda references.


“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.”


This is one of my favorite stanzas in the poem. The reason being is because it represents the beautifully frustrating, nonlinear path that life presents us with. It also shows the good in the bad, the growth in tragedy, the hope in pain, the effort in failure. All these things are to be recognized and appreciated. I know I’ve gone through a plethora of things that, in the moment, I thought would ruin everything, but now I realize why I went through those situations and how they helped mold me into the person I am today. We’re also able to take those lessons and apply them to our nation and the difficulties we have faced, will continue to face, and the ones we have and will overcome. 


“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,

it’s the past we step into

and how we repair it.”

This takes the crown as my favorite stanza in this poem. The effortless rhyme and profound statement is outstanding. The point she was trying to get across is apparent without explanation. It’s powerful, yet simple and leaves room for contemplation. I don’t feel the need to analyze this stanza, I would rather leave it for the reader to sit with and interpret on their own. I just really wanted to be sure to include this because I think it’s one of the most important statements made in the piece. 


“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.”


Effortlessly, Gorman ties in the first stanza to the last with references to the day and the shade, seamlessly tying the beginning and the end together. This last stanza sends the everlasting message of hope and perseverance, whether that be as a nation or as an individual. Living through the shade, which may reference grief, loss, tragedy, or depression, makes the day even brighter. And the loss and grief in which we experienced allows us to emerge stronger and unafraid of what comes next, because we are able to learn and grow from the pain we once held. There is always light, whether we search for it or not, whether we choose to be it or not, and it will be there when we are ready to find it and to be it. 


Of course, there is more to dissect from Gorman’s poem, I chose to focus on these four stanzas, as they were the ones that caught my attention the most. For those interested in hearing more of the poem, I’ve linked both the transcript and recitation of ‘The Hill We Climb’ down below.

Amanda Gorman was chosen to be this year’s Poet Laureate at Joe Biden’s Inauguration, she was also named the nation’s first National Youth Poet Laureate, as she is only 22 years old. For more information on Amanda Gorman, my associate Naomi Presler has written a piece on her, so I encourage those reading to see her article as well. 

Let us take this poem as a reminder of the importance of hope, and let it set the tone for the next four years, under an administration that believes in justice, kindness, and respect. 


Transcript: https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/politics/a35279603/amanda-gorman-inauguration-poem-the-hill-we-climb-transcript/


Recitation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60XEiSHE7ZA