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Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman Performs Poem She Completed After Capitol Riot

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And we close tonight with the words of Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. Gorman recited her poem "The Hill We Climb" on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Here is part of that reading.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AMANDA GORMAN: (Reading) When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry; a sea we must wade. We've 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 hours before we knew it. Somehow, we do it. Somehow, we've 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 a union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gazes 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 the 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 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 in 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?

KELLY: Beautiful - that is inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, reciting her poem "The Hill We Climb" at the Capitol this afternoon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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