Sunday, January 24, 2021

Amanda Gorman: Raising hands and voices...


 There is always light if only we're brave enough to see it, if only                        we're brave enough to be it.  --Amanda Gorman 

                 "Lift where you stand."  --Dieter F. Uchdorf

At the recent United States Inauguration, the Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman galvanized a wounded nation with her poetry and oratory skills. We stood, as a country, transfixed as she raised her lilting voice, reciting her own poetry to try and heal us. No matter what aisle we see ourselves, in blue or red, or a mixture of violet, her words shone in our hearts. She taught some sermons as she strung together her rhythmic syllables. Those who struggle with speech impediments or other fears of inadequacy can look to her for inspiration. Someday with work (and let us not forget encouragement from others), they can raise their voice too. Hers was a call to reach over hurting divides and give hope to our unfinished democracy. 

At the beginning of her delivery, I was surprised to see one beautiful hand raise, and then her other hand gracefully lifted. Together, her hands and words became her voice--moving seamlessly together. Her hand gestures beckoned me into her world and message. She drew me in, and I wanted to hear every word to see how it rhymed and fit into the beat. But more than anything, the words and hands soothed, taught, and encouraged us, her listeners. Her hands reminded me that progress not only happens with our voices: hands are needed too to accomplish visions. Combined together, words AND hands are necessary for action. 

When I read about Amanda Gorman's young life, I am struck by how her voice almost did not happen. She had a speech impediment until she was a sophomore at Harvard University. She not only wanted to pen words, but she also wanted to deliver them. Yet, she knew her slurred words would invite criticism or misunderstanding. Her soul-felt words would be misconstrued, perhaps ridiculed. What was her solution to casting off her speech impediment? She listened to the song "Aaron Burr, Sir" in Hamilton.  She wagered if she could sing along at the same rate as Leslie Odam Jr. in the musical, she could forever erase her "r" speech problem. And then? Everyone could clearly understand her poetry that is calling them to action. There would be no mistake or mocking about it. 

When I hear Amanda's poetry and witness her beautiful delivery (Let's not forget the gorgeous canary yellow coat she wore at the Inauguration), I can't help but think of millions of others who have voices that are still blocked. There are many children out there who need a paintbrush, camera, pencil, or a musical instrument to bring their soul to fruition. As I view people (especially children and teenagers), I want to more frequently ask myself, "What is his/her voice that is begging to come out? What can I do or say to unleash all that may be trapped inside of this beautiful soul?" 

I would not want to miss out on one voice that is aching to emerge on the canvas, paper, stage, or screen. Not one single one. Amanda Gorman is a testament to that. 


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