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Climbing hills

Climbing hills
Climbing hills
Dr. Wayne Willis

She introduced herself as “a skinny black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother, who can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.”

She is Amanda Gorman. Why do I find myself believing, not two months into 2021, that she will become the most quoted contemporary poet and author of the most hope-filled, triumphant, superbly worded and delivered poem of 2021? Let me count the ways.

1. Look at what she has accomplished in her 22 years. In 2017, she was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate. She graduated from Harvard with a sociology degree. Prompted by the Jan. 6 insurrection against the U.S. Capitol, Amanda composed “The Hill We Climb” and was invited to deliver it at the inauguration of President Biden 14 days later. Two of her poetry books have rocketed to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list.

2. As a speaker, she had to overcome a pronouncing problem. Like President Biden, who overcame stuttering, Amanda was having trouble with the letter “R” as late as college. Her “rabbits” sounded like “wabbits” and “brains” like “bwains.” Her voice for many years was limited to the written word. Making herself repeatedly sing “Aaron Burr, Sir,” a song from “Hamilton” with many R’s, finally enabled her to conquer and cure her pronounced speech impediment with music.

3. Amanda’s debut on the world stage was immaculate. She landed, on Inauguration Day, wearing a ruby red headband, canary yellow coat and black boots. On her hand was a gift from Oprah Winfrey, a ring with a caged bird inside. She delivered her prophetic message with exquisite poise, body language and gravitas. Of her strong presence, she later said, “Here’s to the women who have climbed my hills before.”

Caged bird, thou art loosed!

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