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For children, I think it’s important for them to witness history in action. Before the pandemic, Andy and I would make it a point to vote in person with our kids. Even if they were strapped to a stroller, they watched us participate in our democracy. Civic engagement is a value that we hold dear and one we’re intentionally teaching to our children. In normal times, we would’ve gone to the Inauguration in Washington, D.C., but instead, we watched it from the comfort of our living room. The kids may not have understood what was going on, but this practice of voting and witnessing ceremonies that strengthen our democracy is important.

Together, my family watched the Inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris. Unlike previous presidential inaugurations that I have watched over the years, this one lacked much of the pomp and circumstance that set the tone of previous ceremonies. In place of crowds, the people present were members of government, their family members, and performers. Yet, despite the lack of crowds, the Inauguration had a tone of intimate solidarity. The crowds were not missing. As much as the pandemic has moved many events to a virtual platform, the crowds were home as we were, watching an Inauguration event from the comforts of our homes across the nation.

The theme of the entire inauguration celebration was unity. We are the UNITED States of America, not fractured states or political parties. We are ONE America. Just as you may have members of your family who have diametrically opposing viewpoints on significant issues, you still love one another because you’re family. In the same way, we as a nation are one people. We may be different in our backgrounds, in our experiences, in our perspectives, and our parties, but we are still one people: Americans. In his inauguration address, President Biden emphasized the importance of unity:

“Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, and uniting our nation. I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the common foes we face: anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, hopelessness. With unity, we can do great things. Important things. We can right wrongs,” President Joe Biden said.

When Vice President Kamala Harris took the stage for her first speech as Vice President, she echoed President Biden’s calls for unity and optimism. She said, “The courage to see beyond crisis, to do what is hard, to do what is good, to unite, to believe in ourselves, believe in our country, believe in what we can do together.” Vice President Harris is a trailblazer as the first African American and Asian woman to hold the position of Vice President. Her success is an inspiration for young girls all over the nation.

There were many speeches and performances during the inauguration and the evening celebrations that I could hone in and write about, but despite my absence from the classroom, I am still an English teacher at heart. One of the most touching moments to me was when poet laureate Amanda Gorman read her poem “The Hill We Climb.” It is moments like this that I miss teaching. If I was still in the classroom, I would teach her poem, and I would share with my class details about this talented young woman.

Amanda Gorman struggled with speech as a child. She fell in love with poetry and using poems helped her find her voice. As I held my silent Maggie, I whispered in her ears, “you will find your voice one day, too.”

“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

I crave boring. I crave business as usual. I crave the removal of heated emotions from discussions. I crave indoor voices and muted tones, dialogue and discourse that focuses on issues rather than character. I crave drama-free press conferences and I crave transparency. I crave normalcy and decorum. I crave a future of united possibilities. I crave a future where love and honor prevail in every area including our lives, including the United States government.


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