Gorman, now 23, wrote that she was “terrified” and almost declined to be the inaugural poet.
She cited the fear of failing her community and her poetry, as well as the coronavirus pandemic before vaccines became widely available to her age group. She recognized the terror associated with reciting a poem on the steps of the US Capitol in Washington, which a violent pro-Trump mob had attacked just weeks before.
“A loved one warned me to ‘be ready to die’ if I went to the Capitol building, telling me, ‘It’s just not worth it,'” she wrote.
Gorman wrote, “Yet while the inauguration might have seemed like a ray of light, this past year for many has felt like a return to the same old gloom. Our nation is still haunted by disease, inequality and environmental crises. But though our fears may be the same, we are not.”
Gorman garnered national attention and rose in prominence after reciting her poem “The Hill We Climb” on the day Biden was sworn in as President and Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president. She also made history by becoming the youngest person to perform at an inauguration. Her riveting words challenged Americans to unify and “leave behind a country better than the one we were left.”
The historic events of Biden’s inauguration in January 2021 navigated heightened security measures in DC and Covid-19 precautions, including limitations on the number of guests in attendance.
As Gorman reflected on the terror she had experienced before performing, she conveyed confidence in navigating her fear. She urged Americans to embody a similar approach in the face of unease, writing, “If you’re alive, you’re afraid. If you’re not afraid, then you’re not paying attention. The only thing we have to fear is having no fear itself — having no feeling on behalf of whom and what we’ve lost, whom and what we love.”
Gorman shared that she still grapples with her fears “every day” but concluded on an evocative note: “Fear can be love trying its best in the dark. So do not fear your fear. Own it. Free it.”