Montrose Students and Faculty Discuss Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb”

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(Credit: Maevis Fahey ’21)

Elyza Tuan '23, Clubs and Classes Editor

On Tuesday evening, The Walrus and the Multicultural Club collaborated to lead a discussion open to anyone in the Montrose community about 2021 National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s poem, ‘The Hill We Climb,’ which she recited at Joe Biden’s inauguration last week. Read the poem here or watch her performance here. Faculty and students gathered over Zoom to share a common appreciation for the poet laureate, and everyone gained insights from each other as the discussion developed from one person to the next. Walrus Creative Writing Club Leader Jenn Uche ’22 and Multicultural Club Co-Presidents Erica Brown ’22 and Dani Iffih ’23 organized the event, ready with discussion prompts to set the conversation rolling. The group began by watching her perform the poem at the inauguration and then jumped into conversation.

The first discussion question was about the significance of the title: ‘The Hill We Climb.’ Some compared the hill to the inflection and dynamic in Gorman’s voice; some thought about the top of the hill being the goal of justice and how America is and has always struggled up the hill. A truly impactful point is that there is an emphasis on ‘we’ in the poem and that pursuing justice is a collective struggle. In addition, the ‘climb’ in the poem title is in the present tense, conveying an ongoing battle.

Erica Brown ’22 brought up how America is lucky — we are a young country that is still malleable and open to change and improvement. Anna Hvidsten ’23 noted one line: ‘every breath from my bronze pounded chest,’ and shared her interpretation about us having a precious breath as Americans that is protected by bronze. We should use our breath today instead of being hyper-focused on the past or the future.

Another question prompted the participants to think about the line ‘what just is isn’t always justice,’ a powerful line delivered by Gorman. Spandana Vagwala ’22 jumped in saying that in order to be growing, you have to be uncomfortable, and staying comfortable with ‘what just is’ is not right. Relating back to the title, climbing up the hill is going against what is easy for the sake of what is good. We must continue to climb to the top of the hill, which is an ideal America.

The whole experience was very enriching and inspiring. Jenn ’22 was inspired to write her own poetry, and said: “When everyone talked about how the poem stuck to them, and what it means to us and our future as Americans— it rang in my head like a perfect melody. It was beautiful.” Spoken like a true poet herself.

Mrs Whitlock loved hearing everyone’s voices noting the courage all the participants had: “It takes more courage for some than for others to speak up in a group forum, and everyone — whether they were trying to exercise restraint to allow for others’ voices or they were trying to summon the courage to put their voice out there — responded courageously.”

At the end of our discussion, Jenn ’22 invited the participants to share one word about how our discussion about the poem made them feel. Here are the words that we shared.

Hopeful. Uplifting. Heart-filling. Empowering. Chills. Art. Transformative. Thought-provoking. Groundbreaking. Reminder. Powerful. Assertive. Hopeful. Inspiring. Progress. Action. Inspirational. Rising America.

Thank you to Jenn Uche ’22, Erica Brown ’22 and Dani Iffih ’23 for organizing this beautiful event and for inspiring the Montrose community with your leadership!

Elyza Tuan ‘23, Clubs and Classes Editor

23etuan@montroseschool.org