When Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet from Los Angeles, took to the stage on Wednesday, it was immediately clear why the new president had chosen her as his inaugural poet.
Gorman echoed, in dynamic and propulsive verse, the same themes that Biden has returned to again and again, and which he wove throughout his inaugural address: unity, healing, grief and hope, the painful history of American experience and the redemptive power of American ideals.
Where Biden said, "We must end this uncivil war," Gorman declared, "We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another."
And where Biden called for an American story of "love and healing" and "greatness and goodness," Gorman saw strength in pain: "Even as we grieved, we grew," she said.
Gorman, the nation's first National Youth Poet Laureate and by far the youngest poet who has read at a presidential inauguration, opened by acknowledging the reasons why hope can be challenging.
"Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?" she asked.
But she continued: "And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn't broken but simply unfinished."
She acknowledged the power of her own presence on the stage, in "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."
Like Obama inaugural poet Richard Blanco, who invoked the grand sweep of American geography in a call for unity in "One Today," Gorman dedicated a portion to "every corner called our country," from the South to the Midwest. She ended with an invitation to "step out of the shade."
"The new dawn blooms as we free it," she said. "For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it – if only we are brave enough to be it."