writings and Reflections

The Power of a Woman’s Voice: Inauguration Day
Tara Christie Kinsey

Today, exactly two weeks after a violent mob attempted to interrupt and subvert the democratic transfer of presidential power, this country successfully and peacefully carried out its 59th Inaugural Ceremony as President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala D. Harris were sworn into office. Planned and led by a bipartisan committee that chose the theme of “determined democracy,” the inaugural ceremony sent a clear and consistent message of unification without division, of reasoned debate without hate, of hope without fear, and of the need to see, hear, and truly listen to one another if we are to do the important work of dreaming together and planning our next steps together as a nation.

Indeed, the message of today’s inaugural ceremony aligns with so much of what we believe, and so much of what we teach, at Hewitt. And since a great deal of ink has already been spilled on the many reasons why today was far from being just any other inauguration day, I will focus my thoughts on what today means for us as a girls’ school with a future-focused mission.

As a girls’ school, we proudly celebrate the inauguration of the first woman to serve as Vice President of the United States of America. When Vice President Kamala Harris--the first woman vice president, the first Black woman vice president, and the first Asian-American woman vice president--was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina supreme court justice, it was cause for much celebration at Hewitt. Today marked the first time in our nation’s history when Hewitt girls and young women, along with millions of girls and women across this country, could see themselves reflected at the highest level of American government. 

The very existence of Madam Vice President Harris is proof that change is possible, proof that role models are powerful forces in girls’ and women’s lives, and proof that, as our nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman recited today: “If we merge mercy with might, / and might with right, / then love becomes our legacy / and change our children’s birthright.”

Which brings me, of course, to Amanda Gorman herself, whose recitation of her poem “The Hill We Climb” was, for me--as a woman, a lifelong student of poetry, and the head of a girls’ school--the most moving and powerful part of the entire inaugural ceremony. Our nation’s youngest inaugural poet, Gorman, who described herself in her poem as a “a skinny Black girl / descended from slaves and raised by a single mother,” stood today before the country and the entire world and harnessed the full power of her poem, the full power of her art, and the full power of her voice. I cannot wait to re-read Gorman’s poem (the full transcript is below) and discuss it with Hewitt girls and young women for many years to come, and I encourage you all to watch her powerful recitation and performance

On this historic day and every day, as we bear joyful witness to women leaders like Vice President Kamala Harris and Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, let us take heart that at Hewitt, our main animating force is to inspire our girls and young women to bring about positive change in our world. Indeed, the act of becoming benevolent agents of change is woven into our new mission: to inspire girls and young women to become game changers and ethical leaders who forge an equitable, sustainable, and joyous future. Let us remember that when Hewitt girls and women access and use their voices to effect positive change in the world, they change the game--for the better.

To every Hewitt girl and woman: never doubt that you are powerful. Never doubt that you can make a difference. Never doubt that you can bring about a more equitable, sustainable, and joyous future--for you, for others, and for our city and country that need your unique human gifts and talents. For each time you access and use your voice to make a positive difference, you become a part of something much bigger than yourself, and then, as Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman asserts, “love becomes our legacy, and change our children’s birthright.” May this ever be Hewitt’s legacy, and yours.
 


“The Hill We Climb” 
by Amanda Gorman

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We've braved the belly of the beast
We've learned that quiet isn't always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we've weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
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
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promise to glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

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