Words Matter: Amanda Gorman’s Inspiring Poem

January 27, 2021
By iQ Staff
Amanda Gorman reads her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” during the presidential inauguration.

When PR guru John Onoda shared communications tips with our team at iQ 360 last fall, he had one specific recommendation to help us find inspiration: read poetry. “To be able to convey such deep thoughts and emotions while also facing length and formatting constraints is a true skill. We should all aspire to that level of simplicity and power,” he explained.

Just a few months after John’s talk, we had a chance to heed his advice during the star-studded inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. While Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez gave rousing performances, Amanda Gorman, the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate, stole the show. At 22, not only was she the youngest person to deliver a poem at a U.S. presidential inauguration, but she wowed the world through galvanizing verse, the American experience and cultural events of the past and present:


And the norms and notions

of what just is

Isn’t always justice


Somehow we've weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn’t broken

but simply unfinished


We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation

rather than share it

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


As communicators, we are continually striving to find the right words to capture a sentiment and captivate our audience, sometimes in ambiguous situations and under time constraints. Amanda Gorman put beautiful and powerful words on paper with only a month’s notice, amidst uncertainty and rapidly developing events.


For while we have our eyes on the future

history has its eyes on us

If we merge mercy with might,

and might with right,

then love becomes our legacy


We will rebuild, reconcile and recover

and every known nook of our nation and

every corner called our country,

our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,

battered and beautiful


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


The subtle rhymes, powerful metaphors, and captivating nods to news and history reminded us just how much words matter. And it reminded us of John’s sage advice: “We should all aspire to that level of simplicity and power.”


You can listen to the full inaugural speech, ‘The Hill We Climb’ below.