Many lines in the poem refer to the January 6, 20121 Capitol riot, in which insurrectionists who denied the certified and court-approved results of the presidential election tried to interfere with the democratic process by storming the US Capitol. Some allege the rioters meant to capture and hang leaders who accepted the election results that made Biden president, such as Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell.
Some lines that allude to the event are the following:
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.
Gorman also calls the time of the break in:
a terrifying hour.
However, Gorman also alludes to the aftermath, in which, due to the courage and quick thinking of congressional aides who whisked away the boxes holding the ballot counts and the courage of Capitol police who delayed and misdirected the rioters, the possible coup attempt was averted. Democracy did triumph. Gorman notes this in such lines such as the following, saying we are "a nation that isn't broken," and:
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true,
that even as we grieved, we grew …
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation …
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
Gorman's reflections cause us to reflect on the acute danger we were in but more importantly on the fact we pulled together and did not fall to possible tyranny. Her lines emphasize the resiliency of democracy and the American experiment. As a good inaugural poem should, this one celebrates the hope and optimism of the American dream, envisioning American history as headed inevitably toward the greater good. She notes the context in which the attempted insurrection was defeated, a country where she, both descended from slaves and a woman, could hope to become president some day. She articulates a vision of a better collective America:
But one thing is certain,
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy,
and change our children's birthright.