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Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural Poem and What It Stirs in Me

 Sister Kris Schrader, ASC

Amanda Gorman, the 22-year-old American poet and activist from Los Angeles, captured the hearts of many of us when she delivered her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden.

A line in her poem stays with me: 

“And the norms and notions of what just is 

Isn’t always just-ice.”   

The young poet’s words made me wonder: Does God care about justice? Why does God care about anything?

Ms. Gorman’s words and the questions they stir carry me deeper into the mystery and marvel of a God I believe does care about justice.

C. Rene Padilla, the Ecuadorian evangelical theologian, has said “the practice of justice is at the center of God’s purpose for human life.”

I believe that is true. We are the ones who set the “norms and notions of what just is.” We tend to see them in our image, likeness, and biases, not those of a God who cares, which our faith calls us to do.

So then, we are, each of us, standing before and within that question, “what is justice? What is God’s justice? 

We know in that deep, true part of us, God’s justice has everything to do with the right order of things, standing side by side as family, caring for one another in concrete ways, reverencing this world on loan to us, choosing to act as God would, as God can, in and through us. 

Amanda Gorman, the first youth poet laureate, has said she was about halfway through writing her Inaugural poem that was to address the theme of America’s unity when angry mobs stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6. 

She told NBC News, “It was a moment of horror and disgust, but then I also felt an enormous responsibility to say, ‘ok, this is occurring, what am I going to do about it?’ The world is watching us. We have the eyes of history and the future upon us.” 

Her message to the world?

“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
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division”

Amanda Gorman’s poem leaves us with so much to think about. It will take a while to absorb all of its power.

What do her words stir in you? 

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