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Amanda Gorman calls on Americans to 'leave behind a country better than the one we were left' in powerful inauguration poem

Chandelis Duster, CNN | 1/22/2021, 6 a.m.
Amanda Gorman, the na- tion's first-ever youth poet laureate, challenged Americans Wednesday to "leave behind a country better than the ...
Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman speaks at the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC Rob Carr/Getty Images

Amanda Gorman, the nation's first-ever youth poet laureate, challenged Americans Wednesday to "leave behind a country better than the one we were left" and unify together as she delivered a stirring inauguration poem.

Speaking at a US Capitol that just two weeks ago was the site of a harrowing attempt to overthrow American democracy, Gorman bridged the violence of January 6 with the anguish felt by so many Americans of color but described the country as ready to begin anew under President Joe Biden.

"We've seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it," the 22- year-old Gorman said, a reference to the deadly insurrection that, as she told CNN last week, was a catalyzing inspiration for her poem. "Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated."

Clad in a yellow coat and punctuating her words with her hands, Gorman nodded not only to the perilous political moment but also the history and promise of a day on which Kamala Harris became the first woman, first Black person and the first South Asian to be elected vice president of the US.

"Somehow we've weathered and witnessed a nation that isn't broken, but simply unfinished. We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming President, only to find herself reciting for one," the 22-year-old Gor- man said in her poem, entitled, "The Hill We Climb."

"We've seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it," Gorman recited, a reference to the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol that, as she told CNN last week, was a catalyzing inspiration for her poem. "Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded.