With the United States Presidential Inauguration came the rise of a new national icon: Amanda Gorman.
One of four people ever to hold the title of National Youth Poet Laureate, Gorman is only a few years older than current Baylor students, and, despite varying political views, people near and far agree: her performance of “The Hill We Climb” was nothing short of brilliant. Of course, many Baylor Upper School English teachers had a lot to say about the poem, both to their classes themselves and to The Baylor Notes.
Cross Country Coach and English instructor Heather Ott said that “Gorman spoke to the moment in an effective and inspiring way.” Ott shared the poem with her classes in an effort to show an incredibly recent, relevant, and clear example of how poetic techniques and rhetoric function in a written and spoken piece. "Anytime we can connect course material to current events and history, it’s important to do so, and anytime we can review a powerful recitation performance, we should do so,” said Ott. Ott ultimately believes that “Gorman’s essential message and purpose must speak to each of us in this fraught time.”
Tim Laramore ‘99 greatly enjoyed the inaugural poem as well, stating that “it is rare that we have an opportunity to see poetry in the big news of the day,” adding what many of us were also thinking, “I marveled at the fact that a poet just a few years older than my students stood up and delivered such an incredible message and put poetry right in the middle of the national conversation.” And, as any Baylor English teacher would do, Laramore noted Gorman’s creativity and use of rhetoric, explaining that Gorman “used wordplay to make some powerful points when she said that ‘the norms and notions of ‘just is’ is not always ‘justice’’ and that ‘quiet isn’t always peace.’”
Finally, Dr. Emily McArthur said she hears a lot of people say, "they don’t get poetry, as if poetry is written in some kind of secret code.” She said that “Gorman’s performance demystified poetry, moving it from this scary, funny-looking bit of text on the page and letting it shine for what it really is: beautiful, musical language,” stating further that it was Gorman’s physical performance of the poem—“her gestures, her careful enunciation, her poise”—that really tied it all together. McArthur also “felt a lot of hope during her recitation, partially because of the poem’s content and partially because of Gorman’s own youth.” McArthur said Gorman reminded her why she likes working with young people. "I get to imagine a future lead by bright and wonderful folks like Gorman and like many students at Baylor.” McArthur, in the same fashion as Ott and Laramore, reported that she “loved the opportunity to talk about [Gorman’s] rhetorical situation and her vision for America,” further commenting that the “poem also made for a useful review of lots of different literary terms—very AP Lit-relevant.”
McArthur ended by stating that her favorite part of the poem was the “theme of unity—what [Gorman] calls ‘a union with purpose.’” McArthur feels that she “hears voices on both sides of the political spectrum focusing more on what divides our country than what unites us. Gorman’s poem calls us to look for ways to be the light to our fellow humans, regardless of what party we belong to.”
Ott’s concluding remarks held a similar sentiment. “Regardless of one’s politics, this poem celebrated an America that is not only imperfect but also inspiring. Not only...but also. That's the messy complexity that is human nature, families, communities, and this country. "The Hill We Climb" called out to all of us; it inspired us to 'see' and 'be' the light that will 'rebuild, reconcile, and recover' this great country.”