Amanda Gorman read her poem "The Hill We Climb" at President Biden's inauguration, on January 20th, 2021. The previous four years under the Trump administration marked a turbulent time in American history. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and renewed calls for racial justice, America's increasing political divisions were laid bare. Sometimes, these divisions erupted into open conflict and violence, as evidenced by the insurrection and rioting at the US Capitol only weeks before Biden's inauguration. While acknowledging the collective turmoil and trauma Americans have experienced, Gorman's poem looks with hope to a new era and calls upon all Americans to come together and unite in the name of the country that they all love.
In the first line of the poem, Gorman asks, "where can we find light in this never-ending shade?" The light here is symbolic of hope, and the shade, connoting darkness, represents the aforementioned divisions, conflicts, and violence. Essentially, Gorman is asking, how can Americans hope for a better future during one of the country's darkest hours? In the rest of the poem to follow, Gorman offers her answer to this all-important question.
The answer that Gorman ultimately provides is best encapsulated in the line, "We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another." The first "arms" in this quotation means guns and other weapons, and the second "arms" refers the arms of our bodies. Gorman is here asking all Americans to lay down their weapons, cease fighting, and instead embrace one another.
Later in the poem, Gorman proclaims that "victory won't be in the blade, but all the bridges we've made." In other words, Americans won't achieve any lasting victories by infighting or opposing diversity; instead, the path forward lies in embracing diversity as a strength and working to bridge the divisions between Americans. If America is to find the light mentioned at the beginning of the poem, it will be through unity and collective effort, and not through continued division and conflict. This is the fundamental meaning of "The Hill We Climb."