During the election year of 2020, the United States found itself in a tense, divided atmosphere. Of course, during every election year, voters will choose sides. However, this election carried a potent force that threatened to drive a wedge in America. Unfortunately, it was not until the storm on the Capitol that Americans began to petition for togetherness. Although many voices have rung with vigor concerning unity in the United States, one of the most prominent spokespersons for this cause is Amanda Gorman, the youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration.
Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” was written in response to the storming of the Capitol on January 6th, 2021. In her poem, Gorman petitions for “unity and collaboration and togetherness” among the American people. In the following intermittent lines, her message is clear and resounding:
“We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.”
“We seek harm to none and harmony for all.”
“Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.”
“We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.”
“For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Her entire poem exhibits nothing short of the sublime and moving. Her eloquence and flair add potency to her persuasion. Gorman’s poem enables people of various backgrounds to identify the divided state America is in and drive them to fight for a solution.
I believe valuable principles can be extracted from her poem and applied to our lives, particularly from the lines above. Yes, we need to be united. Strength and power reside in unity. However, we must also not mistake unity for conformity. We need to be united in a way where we can freely, but respectfully, express our differing beliefs without toxic backlash and censorship. I do not think that we should stigmatize our differences altogether, because they make us aware of who we are in relation to our fellow Americans. Through our differences in opinions and stances, we enable ourselves to learn and practice tolerance, respect, and patience. To me, this is what unity is all about: being able to respectfully discuss the beliefs of others while holding true to your beliefs.
Although she may appear to be in an entirely different league than you and I, we are more similar to her than not. She is young (aged 22) and desires a change in the world. The only difference is that she has a huge platform to share her ideology. What is stopping us from doing the same? I encourage you all to build your platform as students of Millsaps, as young adults, and as influencers. Use it wisely and boldly to advocate for free speech, representation, and, above all, unity. It is necessary that we demonstrate the unity that we want to see. We must be the change we want to see in our homes, in our churches, in our schools, and in our government. If no one stands for unity, who will? Today, we find ourselves terrified of being judged or “cancelled” by our peers when we advocate for the beliefs we hold to be true. Sacrificing your convictions to save yourself from being ostracized bears an onerous price, one that might cost more than exclusion ever could. I implore you to be bold, let your voice be heard, and exercise the unity that you desire to see.