As I considered what to write for this newsletter article, so many things swirled through my mind because so much has happened since I wrote my last article a month ago.
On January 19th, just one year almost to the day when the US reported its first case of COVID19, we reached 400,000 deaths from the virus, which is still raging and still killing, in this country and around the world.
On January 6th, I watched with much of the nation, in shock, horror and grief as a mob of hundreds of rioters – their anger stoked and their actions encouraged by our former president and other national leaders – storm and vandalize our nation’s Capitol Building in an attempt to prevent lawmakers from certifying an election that the rioters believed was somehow stolen from them.
As a Christian, what made their actions even more hurtful to me and to many people of faith was that many of these rioters carried signs proclaiming their faith in Jesus Christ, even as their words and actions were completely opposite and hostile to everything Jesus taught and lived.
Then, just two weeks after that day, in a locked down capital city under an unprecedented level of security, Joe Biden was sworn in as our nation’s 46th president, and Kamala Harris was sworn in as his vice-president, the first woman and person of color and Asian descent to hold that position, and for me, with this administration comes renewed hope for our future.
The speech Biden gave at his inauguration, indeed, the whole theme of the ceremony, “America United,” was an appeal to all Americans to regain our sense of being one nation and one people; to begin to gather up the broken pieces, of our national unity and start working to put them back together, because it is only in unity that we can prevail against the many challenges we now face.
In his inaugural address, Joe Biden pledged to be a president for all Americans, those who didn’t vote for him as much as for those who did.
Echoing Lincoln when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Biden promised to put “his whole soul” into the task of bringing Americans together once again.
The inauguration ceremony included moving performances by several top stars, but for me, the highlight was Amanda Gorman, 22-year-old Los Angeles resident, youth poet laureate of Los Angeles, first national youth poet laureate and Harvard graduate, who was invited to speak at the event by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, who had previously seen her do a reading at the Library of Congress.
Her poem spoke eloquently of the challenges we face as a nation and also of the unity that helps us overcome them. Below is a link to hear her deliver her poem at the inauguration.
(4) Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman delivers a poem at Joe Biden's inauguration - YouTube
And here is the text of Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” in full.
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we 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.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
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.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
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.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
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.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons 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.