A Gormanding Speech


Will Onubogu '22, Staff Writer

January 20th, 2021: The day that marked the continued tradition of swearing in the incumbent president. This time around it was 78 year old President-elect Joseph R. Biden. This day was his, amidst turmoil that is a mix of political and racial unrest, and a raging pandemic. As always, eyelids peeled back and waited for a historic speech that will surely be quoted for ages. While it certainly was a speech, it lacked that boom, that life, and greater sense of hope that we desperately all need in these uncertain times. By no means was the speech itself underwhelming, but paired next to a young black woman’s speech, they were incomparable. Of course, I am referring to the first U.S national youth poet laureate and the youngest inaugural poet-speaker in U.S. history: Amanda Gorman. Standing relatively small at 5’1’’, her voice projected clearly and words crystallized in each listener’s mind, feeling every tone… taking every word… as if it were the last. In one moment, she became a known figure, a household name, if not by name, by face at the very least. It was an empowering moment for viewers, and I know that for myself, sitting and watching it with my advisor, Señor Ibanez, the speech reverberated so much within me that not only did my body chill, the room did as well. 

A man once asked, “What’s your life’s blueprint?” in a speech where he answered, let yourself be the best of whatever you are. Amanda Gorman perpetuates this idea in the highest manner. Inspiring people that in the 21st century, poetry is not dead and can still do a great deal in this technological world.

In her speech appropriately titled “The Hill We Climb,” an indirect relation to the insurrection on capitol hill, she hits important points that I believe this article would serve no justice to if left unaddressed.

She says, “We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what just is isn’t always just-ice.” Many of us see the peace through the quietness of our lives but, if you object quietly when you are upset about something, it is not making peace, nor is it peace, rather it is passivity of which keeps people dissuaded and unhappy. In this society, quietness leaves groups ostracized. If someone is being bullied and you remain silent, that individual is referred to as a bystander: someone who is just as at fault as the perpetrator themself. Silence is agreement, silence is too easy, silence is privilege. To choose to not speak on issues is a privilege because if you were directly a victim of the suffering, your mindset would be different.

In the second part of this quote, she is referring to tradition, the normality of what is the United States. Gorman inspires this question: What have you just decided is normal? Why must we wear ties with our suits, why must we go to school? As we question our “normal” life, consider our justification for the questions we present ourselves. Who gave us that justification? Why is this an acceptable justification? You may come to realize that your actions lacked individuality and you were stuck conforming to what is ingrained in you. And more so, what just is, is not always better for the whole of us.

Overall, Gorman challenges every single one of us to be unafraid and confront the issues in their full value. As this applies to Berkshire School, I challenge you all, from students, to faculty and staff, to not dwell in silence regardless of belief, but project true feelings, as that does the justice that will lead to growth from within our community. As Gorman puts it, “[to] lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.” 

Remember, only we are in control of future generations and there is so much to do, so much to lose, and so much to improve.