This past January 20th, at the age of just twenty-two, our nation’s youngest ever Inaugural Poet captured all of our hearts. Standing in the spot where just days before insurrectionists had stormed the building, Amanda Gorman recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb.” That day she said, “Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:/ That even as we grieved, we grew/ That even as we hurt, we hoped…”.

What wisdom from someone so young! She seems to know that hope is more than wishful thinking, and that deep hope arises after we’ve made a journey through the valley of despair. “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.”

Those who’ve suffered greatly and survived have always told us that our deepest, truest hope is most surely rendered from our experience. This is what remains when all else is crushed, tattered, burned off, and gone. It’s then, if we're brave enough to look for what remains after tragedy, after atrocity, that we find what we love most, what we cherish and commit to, what we're determined to fight for. And afterward, this is what we carry forward in our arms, our hearts, our choices, as hope.

We’ve been through a lot these last four years…and in all the years of our country’s flawed and complicated history. At the end of this first month of the year, what do you hope for yourself? Your family and community? For our country? What circumstances have you or your ancestors come through that brought you to this place? What do you hope for? How does what you hope for fit (or not) with what others hope for?

In an age when insurrectionists and internet bullies skulk around with the intent to cause grievous harm, a twenty-two-year-old stood tall in a bright yellow coat and what seemed not so much a red band, or hat, but a crown. And with enormous love and powerful conviction she shared her vision of the democracy she knows that together we yet can be. It’s not easy, this hill we climb. But the future is ours, she reminds us, if only we will see it; if only we are courageous enough to be it.