SCHENECTADY – The words of Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet who performed during Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony, resonated with students like Schenectady High School senior Sieera Boodhoo.
“Her voice was loud. It brought hope and by demonstrating such bravery only sets an example of what the rest of us Americans should be doing,” Boodhoo said. “Her poem symbolizes hope for our future overall and I’m very inspired by her.”
Gorman is the youngest known inaugural poet in the nation’s history and the first National Youth Poet Laureate. She performed her poem “The Hill We Climb,” on Wednesday as part of Inauguration Day, acknowledging the pain of the past and looking to a brighter future.
“We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice,” Gorman said, a line which moved Boodhoo, who also writes poetry.
“There is a fine line between right and wrong, there are certain moral beliefs that have to be recognized. To ignore what’s happening is to be ignorant,” Boodhoo said.
She watched the performance on Wednesday as part of an English class, taught by Colleen Wygal.
“One of the most important roles of an educator is to allow students access to their present value in this world, not just hope for the future,” Wygal said. “There are so many gifted and precious children who deserve to see themselves represented as such. Amanda Gorman embodied that. Poetry is alive and well and so are the hearts and minds of our youth.”
On the other side of the Capital Region, Amsterdam High School history teacher Nancy Spagnola, also had some of her students watch the performance.
“That was just an amazing poem,” Spagnola said. Especially after what went on this summer, it seems like the country’s so divided and the fact that this young, beautiful, African American woman is the first-ever national [youth] poet laureate . . . I mean that was amazing.”
Charli Beekman, a senior at Amsterdam High School and a student in Spagnola’s women activist class, was struck by Gorman’s performance, especially with Gorman’s message of hope.
“The way she articulated her words and the way she spoke so gracefully was really just breathtaking,” Beekman said.
“She mentioned about finding light in the never-ending shade, which was really good to me,” Beekman said, adding that the country is in an especially tough spot right now.
For Glenashia Grier, a senior at Schenectady High School, Gorman’s performance symbolized the power of Black women.
“. . . she’s a Black young lady and for her to be speaking at the inauguration and then to be telling a poem that brings so much light to so much dark, that’s so great and it shows how much power young Black women and women of color, in general, will have not just right now but in the future,” Grier said.
Another part of the Inauguration Day that stuck with Grier was the swearing-in of Vice President Kamala Harris.
“That’s another great thing about today. The first woman vice president . . . just so happens to be a woman of color, somebody that looks like me,” Grier said. “To see somebody that looks like me having power . . . and they understand where me personally, or any young girl of color, has come from, I feel like that’s such a great thing. I feel like it gives young Black girls courage to just persevere through any situation that they’re going through.”
“It gives all the girls that I teach this role model to aspire toward. Being a woman and being a woman of color . . . people have said she might be the first but she’s not the last. So hopefully this really inspires my girls that their wildest dreams can come true if they work hard enough for it,” Spagnola said.