The Hill We Climb Poem Summary, Notes And Line By Line Analysis In English By Amanda S. C. Gorman


To commemorate Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th President of the United States in 2021, Amanda Gorman composed and performed the song “The Hill We Climb.” The poem honors the United States as a nation with the courage to battle its difficulties. 

The poem contends that progress is a gradual and even painful “climb” up the “hill” and requires patience and tolerance. Change is difficult, but it’s always possible, according to the speaker.

About The Poet

Poet and activist Amanda S. C. Gorman is from the United States. Her writing mostly addresses the African diaspora as well as topics of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization. Gorman was the inaugural recipient of the National Youth Poet Laureate title. In 2015, she released the poetry collection The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough.

Lines 1-15

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 just-ice.
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we've weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn't broken,
but simply unfinished.

The speaker claims that as Americans, we ponder over this question each morning as we wake up: “Where can we find light amid what seems to be an everlasting darkness?” Our ongoing sadness feels like a vast, deep sea that we must slowly cross. We’ve experienced some of the worst situations possible.

We’ve learned that going about things as usual doesn’t always equate to genuine peace, just as typical notions of justice don’t always equate to lasting justice. But the sun rises before we ever realize it has happened, the speaker adds. We manage to survive and reach a new day. We’ve gone through some difficult periods and learned that our nation can be saved; it’s simply not been accomplished yet.

Lines 16-29

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.

The poem was written in an era when the speaker, a skinny Black girl whose forefathers were slaves, who was raised by a single mother, and who once dreamed of becoming president, may now stand here and recite this same poem for the future president of the United States. Although the United States is far from flawless, this does not obligate citizens to seek perfection right away.

Instead, we must consider our actions as part of a deliberate process to create a cohesive nation. We want to create a nation that is equally livable for people from all origins and ethnicities. As a result, we focus on the arduous challenge in front of us rather than everything that separates us from one another. 

Lines 30-40

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.

We cooperate with one another across borders because we are aware that if we want to create a better future for all, we must see beyond our differences. We lay down our swords and come to a mutual acceptance. We want a country that fosters harmony and doesn’t harm anyone.

The world should only ever say this about the people of this nation: we gained knowledge through our suffering. Even though we were in distress, we never lost hope. Even though we were worn out, we persisted in trying. We will always work closely together to make the world a better place.

Lines 41-64

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.

That doesn’t mean we’ll always succeed; it just means we won’t make any more attempts to distance ourselves from one another. The Bible instructs us to picture a time when everyone is happy and satisfied in their own personal “garden,” having no need to be fearful of anyone. We must take this to heart and learn to use relationship rather than violence to settle issues if we are to live up to the promise of the time we are in.

If we have the courage to do so, that optimistic future vision is the “garden” we must cultivate and the difficult “hill” we must conquer. Because being American is about more than just being patriotic. It involves accepting and dealing with our traumatic past.

Lines 65-80

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.

Because being American is about more than just being patriotic, we’ll do this. It’s about accepting our problematic past, talking about our issues rather than suppressing them, and taking action to address them. Some Americans would have preferred to destroy the nation than to share it with individuals who don’t think like them; they would have done so in order to obstruct the democratic process.

They nearly got away with it too! Democracy can be slowed down, but it cannot be completely stopped. We Americans have confidence in that notion. We are aware that the future is also gazing back at us as we look forward. And the period in our history when justice can be carried out is now finally upon us. 

Lines 81-92

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.
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 with.

We won’t go back to the way things were; rather, we’ll make progress in the direction of something new. Our country is damaged but not broken; it is forgiving but powerful; it is bold and free. Violence and intimidation won’t deter us because we understand that if we stop now, the future generation will only be left with a legacy of stagnant growth.

Children will inherit our errors as difficulties. One thing is certain, though: if we combine moral decency with power and compassion with authority, we will instead leave our children an inheritance of love. So let’s depart this country in a better state than when we arrived. We’ll make this hurting, injured world into something amazing with each breath I take into my armored body.

Lines 93-110

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the gold-limbed 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 sunbaked 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,
aflame and unafraid,
the new dawn blooms 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.

We’ll emerge from the highlands of western United States’.  We’ll leave behind the blustery north-eastern United States, where the American Revolution had its start. We will emerge from the Midwest’s Great Lakes. We’ll leave the arid, sunny South and ascend. We’ll mend fences, make amends, and improve. Citizens from all diverse origins will emerge from refuge in every corner of the United States, damaged yet beautiful.

We emerge from the night glistening with fire and courage as the sun rises. When we permit the new sun to rise, it does. Because if we have the courage to look for it if we have the bravery to create it ourselves, light never truly disappears.